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Sunday, October 16, 2016, 17:40

Diplomats forge new track to end Syria violence

By Associated Press
Diplomats forge new track to end Syria violence
US Secretary of State John Kerry, center, talks with Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, left, and Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, right, after a meeting on the crisis in Syria, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Oct 15, 2016. (Photo / AP)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — New ideas proposed, more talks prepared and no quick resolution in sight for Syria's agony.

A US-hosted meeting of major world and regional powers made only piecemeal headway on creating a new, multilateral track for ending the beleaguered country's grinding war.

US Secretary of State John Kerry convened top diplomats from Russia and regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran on Saturday for a 4 1/2-hour meeting in Switzerland.

John Kerry's new approach to solve Syria crisis came after last month's US-Russian bid to end the war collapsed in days

The talks came amid heightened urgency about the city of Aleppo, the latest flashpoint in a war that has killed up to a half-million people, sparked a refugee crisis and offered a territorial base to the radical Islamic State group.

Kerry's new approach comes after last month's US-Russian bid to end the war collapsed in days as Syrian forces backed by Russian airpower launched an offensive on rebel-held parts of Aleppo.

Ministers put a brave face on the Lausanne meeting, which Kerry said was "exactly what we wanted" — a statement that testified mostly to low expectations. The main result was pledges to resume contact on Monday.

"Nobody wants to do this in a sloppy way," said Kerry, who only recently accused Moscow of war crimes.

Russia has put a priority on separating al-Qaida-linked militants on a UN-designated list of terrorist organizations from "moderate" rebels backed by the United States. For that to happen, Washington says the aerial onslaught in eastern Aleppo must stop.

Saturday's talks included top envoys from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.

Kerry said the discussion was driven by the "urgency of Aleppo, the urgency of trying to find something that works other than military action."

Ministers offered suggestions that "really might be able to shape some different approaches," he said, without elaborating. No official news conference or joint statement followed Saturday's meeting.

The Syrian-Russian offensive in Aleppo prompted the end discussions this month over a proposed military alliance against Islamic State and al-Qaida-linked militants. Last week, Kerry accused both parties of war crimes for targeting hospitals and civilian infrastructure in the Arab country.

Nevertheless, Kerry reunited with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the lakeside Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, speaking with the Russian for almost 40 minutes before the larger gathering. For all the talk in Washington about a possible Plan B, US hopes for diplomatic progress appeared to rest squarely on Russia's cooperation.

"There are a few ideas we discussed today in this circle of countries that can influence the situation," Lavrov told Russian news agencies. "We agreed to continue contacts in the next few days aiming at agreements that could advance the settlement. We spoke clearly in favor of a quick launch of a political process."

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