Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syria Shifts from Vitriol to Measured Remarks as Talks Open

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Syria Shifts from Vitriol to Measured Remarks as Talks Open

Article excerpt

MONTREUX, Switzerland -- The Syrian government and the opposition seeking its overthrow confronted each other face to face Wednesday for the first time since a national uprising began nearly three years ago.

The talks were widely expected to last months, if not years. But there were two unexpected developments in the course of the day of speechmaking in this Swiss resort town that augured hope for a more rapid agreement.

First, there was a striking shift in tone by Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, chief representative of the government of President Bashar Assad, from harsh and combative in his opening statement Wednesday morning to measured and businesslike final remarks in late afternoon.

Then, a short time later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disclosed that the United States and Russia were working closely to find other ways to bring pressure for a solution, and that pressure includes increasing support to the rebels.

"There are still other possibilities of ways to be able to bring pressure and to try to work a solution" to the crisis, Mr. Kerry said. He said he had spoken with Soviet Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and that President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had "talked at some length about this." Following those talks, "they both instructed Foreign Minister Lavrov and me to continue our efforts, which we will do," he said.

"I can tell you this," Mr. Kerry said. "What you see in the direct talks between the opposition and the Assad regime will not be the full measure of effort being expended in order to try to find a solution here." He added, "Lots of avenues will be pursued, including continued support to the opposition and augmented support to the opposition."

Mr. Kerry also said he expected the growing refugee problem in Jordan and the rise of terrorist groups in both Lebanon and Syria will "compel others to think in different ways about what the options may be as we go down the road."

Another sign of a possible acceleration of efforts is that Mr. Moallem will head the Syrian delegation for the actual negotiations, to begin Friday in Geneva. Syria's U. …

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