MOSCOW/BEIRUT: Russia and the United States agreed to bury their differences over Syria and to try to convene international talks with both sides in the civil war to end the carnage that is inflaming the Middle East.
Visiting Moscow after Israel bombed targets near Damascus and asPresident Barack Obama faces new calls to arm the rebels, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia had agreed to try to arrange a conference as early as this month involving bothPresident Bashar al-Assad’s government and his opponents.
An East-West disagreement that has seen some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War has deadlocked U.N. efforts to settle the Syrian conflict for two years, so any rapprochement could bring an international common front closer than it has been for many months.
But with Syria’s factional and sectarian hatreds more entrenched than ever after 70,000 deaths, it is far from clear the warring parties are ready to negotiate. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government, which has offered reforms but dismisses those fighting it as “terrorists”.
The late hour of the announcement in Moscow – Kerry was kept waiting for three hours by President Vladimir Putin – also meant leaders of the Western-backed opposition umbrella group the Syrian National Coalition were not available for comment. Many on the body have insisted Assad’s exit is a condition for talks.