Russian and U.S. diplomats to meet on Syria on Thursday

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 06, 2013 11:03 AM
Russian and U.S. diplomats to meet on Syria on Thursday

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Senior U.S. and Russian diplomats will discuss the Syrian conflict at talks in London on Thursday, Russia said, announcing the latest in a series of meetings aimed at finding an end to the bloodshed.

Russia's special Middle East envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, will hold talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns on the sidelines of an international meeting on Yemen, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Speaking at a weekly news conference on Wednesday, Lukashevich said Bogdanov would also meet Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N./Arab League peace envoy for Syria, but did not make clear whether all three diplomats would meet together.

Senior U.S. and Russian diplomats have met repeatedly in recent months - including two meetings between Burns, Bogdanov and Brahimi - with little sign of progress toward ending the two-year-old conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people.

Moscow and Washington have long been at odds over the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States says he must abandon power but Russia says his exit must not be a precondition for a negotiated settlement, and has blocked Western-backed efforts to use the clout of the U.N. Security Council to pressure him.

The planned meeting comes after a telephone call on Friday in which the White House said Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed on "the need to advance a political transition" to end the violence in Syria as soon as possible.

The Kremlin said Putin and Obama had told their foreign ministers to seek "new initiatives" to end the civil war.

Bogdanov will also hold talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Lukashevich said.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Steve Gutterman and Andrew Roche)