BELGRADE – The US and Russia say they have been unable once again to forge a comprehensive agreement on increasing cooperation to end the conflict in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov could point to only minor progress to achieving a ceasefire, after meeting off-and-on for nearly 10 hours in Geneva on Friday.
Their failure to reach an overall agreement underscores the increasingly complex situation on the ground in Syria, including deep divisions and mistrust dividing Washington and Moscow, as well as the intermingling of US-backed militants with the Daesh (ISIL / ISIS) terrorist group and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
Kerry said critical sticking points remain unresolved and experts will remain in Geneva with an eye toward finalizing those in the coming days.
“We are not going to rush to an agreement until it satisfies fully the needs of the Syrian people,” Kerry said.
Lavrov echoed that, saying “we still need to finalize a few issues” and pointed to the need to separate “sane opposition forces” from terrorist organizations like the al-Nusra Front.
“We have continued our efforts to reduce the areas where we lack understanding and trust,” Lavrov said.
Friday’s meeting came a month after the two top diplomats met in Moscow and agreed on a number of unspecified actions to resuscitate a truce that would pave the way for peace talks.
The inability to achieve a deal between the US and Russia virtually brings another missed deadline for the UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura to get the Syrian government and “moderate” militants back to the negotiating table.
Kerry also stressed the importance of keeping the details secret. “We do not want to make an announcement … that is not enforceable, that doesn’t have details worked out, that winds up in the place that the last two announcements have wound up.”
“Until we have, neither of us are prepared to make an announcement that is predicated for failure. We don’t want a deal for the sake of the deal, we want a deal that is effective,” Kerry said.
Highlighting deep differences over the Syrian conflict, Kerry said that Russia disputes the US “narrative” of recent Russian attacks on heavily populated areas.
Moscow maintains the attacks it has been involved in have targeted legitimate terrorist targets, while Washington says they have hit “moderate” US-backed militants.