The first multilateral talks on Syria began today in Switzerland, and ended a few hours later with no reports of any progress toward any actual deals. The US went into the talks saying they doubted any deals would be made, while Russia sought agreement on separating the Nusra Front from moderate rebels.
But the US–Russia talks lasted all of 40 “businesslike” minutes, and the rest of the talks, while apparently not full of too much acrimony, ended with an agreement to meet again in the coming days. Secretary of State John Kerry said they’d meet again Monday.
Exactly what the next round of talks are aimed at is unclear, because no one seems to be in a deal-making mood. Russian FM Sergey Lavrov suggested “some ideas” had been discussed, but did not elaborate, and among those participating in the talks, it’s not clear who they’d deal with.
It’s clearly not the US, which is going out of its way not to deal with Russia lately. The other parties at the talks include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran. The Russians had expressed hope for deals with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, who they say have the influence to distance the rebels from Nusra.
Increasingly, the US and its allies are more overt in criticizing Russia for airstrikes against Nusra-held territory, and both Russian and Syrian officials have accused the US of using the al-Qaeda-linked force as a proxy. in the civil war.