WASHINGTON: Moscow and Washington have pledged to try again to negotiate a lasting ceasefire for war-ravaged Syria, committing to multilateral weekend talks in Europe, after the last attempt collapsed amid bitter recriminations.
Syria has been plunged into some of the worst violence of the five-year civil war after a hard-won truce collapsed as government forces backed by Russian air power push a brutal assault on rebel-held eastern Aleppo.
As the West accused Russia of potential war crimes over the bombing campaign, Moscow and Washington froze talks, trading blame for the collapse of the ceasefire they had brokered.
There is now a push to give diplomacy another chance with Washington announcing Wednesday two days of talks – in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday, and in London on Sunday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to be joined in Lausanne by counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — all backers of Syrian opposition forces.
Neither side has confirmed an invitation to Iran, a key player in the conflict and an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Then, in London, Kerry is likely to meet up with his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany.
Lavrov told CNN in an interview Wednesday that he hoped the weekend talks in Switzerland could help “launch a serious dialogue” based on the now-defunct US-Russian pact.
“We would like to have a meeting in this narrow format, to have a businesslike discussion, not another General Assembly-like debate,” Lavrov said.
The floor of the General Assembly was the scene of a stormy weekend meeting as Russia vetoed a resolution on a ceasefire.
Following from there, New Zealand, one of the 10 non-permanent Security Council members, presented Wednesday a draft resolution demanding an end to air attacks in Aleppo. The draft text, seen by AFP, demands “an immediate and complete end to all attacks” in Syria and in particularly in Aleppo.
Council members will discuss the crisis in Syria during a luncheon meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday, ahead of a new council session on Monday.
“We believe that the council has a responsibility to address what is clearly the biggest issue on its agenda,” said New Zealand’s Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen.
“With the level of killing and destruction going on, just to give up seems to us to be an unacceptable course of action,” he told reporters.
The move by New Zealand came as Canada was leading a push at the General Assembly to mobilize international efforts.
The General Assembly is expected to hold a special session on Syria next week that could lead to further measures, possibly targeting Syria’s voting rights at the United Nations.