A new round of international talks on Syria are set to begin this weekend in Switzerland, and US State Department officials are ready downplaying the chances of anything being accomplished, saying their whole focus is on getting multilateral talks up and running.
US officials are very keen to emphasize that this is a multilateral effort, as opposed to previous bilateral deals with Russia. This time, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar are all invited. The bilateral talks were ended by the US after the last ceasefire collapsed.
Russian officials, by contrast, say they’re very eager to talk with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, noting both nations are “really, really, really influential” with moderate rebel factions, and that Russia’s aims in the talks are to get them to separate the moderates from the Nusra Front.
The last ceasefire was aimed at doing the same thing, with the US agreeing that the seven-day ceasefire would involve separating the rebels from Nusra, and then launching joint US-Russian strikes on Nusra forces. The ceasefire lasted seven days, but the rebels never did any separating, and the US reneged on the joint strikes, accusing Russia of war crimes when they went ahead and attacked Nusra forces anyhow.
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