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U.S. backs U.N. role in resolving Syria crisis: Gabriel

Reuters

BONN, Germany (Reuters) - Countries opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, including the United States, back efforts by the United Nations to broker a political solution to the civil war in Syria, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Friday.

"It is clear that all who met want a political solution... and that this political solution must be achieved in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations and that there cannot be any parallel negotiations," Gabriel told reporters after a meeting that included the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, France and Britain.

Gabriel said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had played an active role in the discussions about how to end the war in Syria, which took place on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers.

All eyes have been on the United States and its approach to ending the violence in Syria, given promises by U.S. President Donald Trump to build closer ties to Russia, which has supported the Syrian government under Assad.

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Speaking alongside Gabriel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Geneva would ultimately fail if Russia did not use its influence on the Syrian government and Iran to stop labeling all those opposed to Assad as "terrorists."

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the United States supported Russian-sponsored parallel peace talks on Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana. Those talks ended on Thursday with no joint communique and opposing Syrian groups exchanging angry tirades.

Russia proposed a series of parallel intra-Syrian negotiations in coordination with Turkey and Iran last year in Astana to reinforce a shaky ceasefire.

It has tried to expand the scope to cover political aspects, a move that has been criticized by Western and Arab states, who argue that U.N. efforts are the only credible track for a political solution.

The United Nations special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is convening a new round of peace talks among Syrian factions in Geneva on Feb. 23 after negotiations collapsed almost nine months ago.

A spokesman for de Mistura said he was still finalizing who would come to the Geneva talks but there were already positive responses to invitations that had gone out.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold, Andrea Shalal and John Irish; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

 
 
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