The US and Russia have expressed cautious optimism during their second day of talks concerning Syria at the UN in Geneva. President Bashar al-Assad's allies have praised Syria for joining a chemical weapons treaty.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went into another day of Geneva talks on Syria saying they hoped to cooperate and find solutions to the conflict.
"We are committed to trying to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world," Kerry, flanked by Lavrov and UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, told reporters.
The US and Russia, both permanent UN Security Council members, have largely taken opposite sides during the Syrian conflict. A Russian deal for Syria to submit its chemical weapons to the UN and join a global pact against using such munitions slowed preparations by the US and France for military intervention in Syria, also paving the way for the two-day meeting in Geneva.
Syria applies to chemical weapons accord
Syria has since sought entry into an international chemical weapons convention, a move allies like Russia, China and Iran all hailed on Friday as a sign that President Bashar al-Assad was willing to negotiate.
"This confirms the sincere intention of the Syrian partners to find a solution to the crisis," Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a ceasefire in Syria to enable political negotiations, also calling on Assad to quickly destroy his chemical arsenal. The Syrian opposition was less enthusiastic.
"The Syrian Coalition is deeply skeptical about the Assad regime's signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention of Thursday," the umbrella opposition "National Coalition" said in a statement. "Such a gesture comes as too little, too late to save civilians from the regime's murderous intent and is clearly an attempt to evade international action as well as accountability in front of the Syrian people."
New York next, then Geneva again?
Kerry and Lavrov are almost certain to meet again around September 28 in New York during the UN General Assembly. The diplomats' broader target for Syria, however, would be to resurrect the so-called "Geneva 2" peace talks on Syria. These negotiations, meant to include both Syrian sides as well as Russia and the US, were initially scheduled for May this year but have been subject to several delays.
Plans for these talks were shelved altogether in the aftermath of the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad forces in the east of Damascus on August 21. The US says it is certain that the Syrian government was behind the attack and that more than 1,400 people were killed - charges Damascus contests.
The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have died since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.
msh/kms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)