Russia, US discuss organizing Syria political process

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Damascus, Oct 25: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday discussed ways of organizing a political process between the Syrian government and its opponents, a day after the two met in Vienna along with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The top diplomats from the four countries put forward new ideas to revive a failed push for a political transition in Syria that would end the country's civil war, Kerry said after yesterday's meeting. But they remained deeply divided over the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Syria

The follow-up telephone discussion between Lavrov and Kerry was initiated by Kerry, the Russian foreign ministry said.

According to U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby, Kerry and Lavrov "focused on their shared pursuit of options to achieve a political transition and discussed the potential for future multi-lateral meetings on the topic."

Separately, Lavrov said today that Russia was ready to support the Free Syrian Army in its fight against the Islamic State group. The Free Syrian Army is the main Western-backed opposition group fighting Assad.

"We are ready to include the patriotic opposition, among them the Free Syrian Army, to support them from the air," he said in an interview aired today on state television channel Rossiya-1.

But he said the Americans would not give Moscow the locations of the opposition group and the locations of terrorist groups.

He said the U.S. was refusing to coordinate their anti-terrorist campaign in Syria, calling it a "big mistake." "We are ready for such coordination as thoroughly as possible," he said.

Syria is in its fifth year of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands, spurred a massive refugee crisis in Europe and led to the emergence of the Islamic State group and Russia's direct military intervention. Ru

ssia says it is targeting IS and other terrorists in Syria, but most of the Russian airstrikes have focused on areas where the militants do not have an active presence.

Syria's parliament speaker said today that Syria, along with its allies Russia and Iran, is working to push forward a political solution in parallel with the fight against terrorism on the ground, by activating dialogue with the "national opposition" that rejects foreign intervention in Syria's internal affairs.

AP

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