With Russian military entering Syria, is cooperation on the table as Obama meets Putin at the United Nations?
Russia and the US are expected to take part in Syria peace talks in October, along with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, according to Russia’s deputy foreign minister.
A meeting of an international contact group of the “most influential outside players” will “be pushed forward to October after the UN General Assembly”, Mikhail Bogdanov was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency on Monday as saying.
“We have named the participants: Russia, the US, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent troops and aircraft to Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Putin is calling for a new coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group that would include Russian forces and Assad’s government.
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He is set to make a major speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, before holding his first official meeting with US President Barack Obama in over two years.
Bogdanov said others could also be invited to the October meeting, adding that Russia wants the talks to happen “as quickly as possible”.
He said the make-up of the contact group had not yet been decided but could include the countries’ foreign ministers.
“The level hasn’t been decided yet. I think it will be working at multiple levels: experts, deputy ministers and ministers if necessary,” Bogdanov said.
He said the group would meet after the formation of four working groups on Syria in Geneva and would work together with the UN’s envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura.
“Naturally, here it is very important to work in conjunction with the United Nations, with de Mistura,” Bogdanov said.
De Mistura has said he hoped the working groups, which will involve Syrians, could lay the ground for the country’s warring factions to find a political solution to the conflict.
Western powers say Assad’s military is responsible for the vast majority of the 240,000 deaths in the war.
But with their response to ISIL in disarray, they have let Assad’s backers present him as the only option.