Lavrov says US drag­ging out talks on Aleppo

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

HAM­BURG, Ger­many:

Russian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov yes­ter­day ac­cused the United States of stalling talks on evac­u­at­ing re­main­ing rebel-held parts of the Syr­ian city of Aleppo, and said it was tak­ing “strange” and con­tra­dic­tory po­si­tions. Lavrov said there was still a good chance of reach­ing a deal, as long as Wash­ing­ton did not change its mind about par­tic­i­pat­ing in a meet­ing of tech­ni­cal ex­perts in Geneva to­day.

But he also said the fight­ing would con­tinue un­til all rebels had left, deny­ing that he had said on Thurs­day that the Syr­ian military would halt its ac­tiv­ity.

Rus­sia, which backs the Syr­ian army with air strikes, wants Wash­ing­ton to urge rebel fight­ers to aban­don their re­main­ing ter­ri­tory, which ap­pears to be on the verge of fall­ing, and ac­cept trans­port out. Rus­sia said yes­ter­day that its forces had helped more than 8,000 Syr­ian cit­i­zens flee parts of east­ern Aleppo still con­trolled by rebels in the last 24 hours, in­clud­ing al­most 3,000 chil­dren. The UN hu­man rights of­fice said it be­lieved some 100,000 civil­ians were still in the rebel-held en­clave. Lavrov said Wash­ing­ton’s lack of con­trol over Syr­ian rebels was a factor in its in­abil­ity to con­clude an agree­ment.

But he also said the State Depart­ment did not ap­pear to be “in charge” of all fac­tors, and that some parts of the US gov­ern­ment ap­par­ently did not sup­port continued ne­go­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia. Even US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry had pub­licly de­nied the ex­is­tence of a US work­ing pa­per that had been pre­sented to Moscow last week, Lavrov said.

BET­TER TIES UN­DER TRUMP?

He ap­peared to hold out hope of closer co­op­er­a­tion once Don­ald Trump was sworn in as US pres­i­dent. Trump has vowed to build bet­ter ties with Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and sug­gested that Wash­ing­ton’s fo­cus in Syria - which along with Rus­sia con­sid­ers all rebels “ter­ror­ists” - should be on fight­ing Is­lamic State. “The ded­i­ca­tion to fight­ing ter­ror­ism is quite ob­vi­ous and ev­i­dent with Don­ald Trump, much more than the ac­tions of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

Lavrov was in Ham­burg for a meet­ing of the 57-nation Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co-op­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE). He said he had raised the is­sue of military buildups in Europe, where the West says it is re­spond­ing to ag­gres­sive Russian ac­tions, no­tably in an­nex­ing Crimea from Ukraine and sup­port­ing a re­bel­lion in east­ern Ukraine. — Reuters

HAM­BURG: Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov ad­dresses a press con­fer­ence dur­ing the for­eign min­is­ters’ meet­ing of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Se­cu­rity and Co­op­er­a­tion in Europe (OSCE) in Ham­burg yes­ter­day. — AFP

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