MOSCOW, May 8 (RIA Novosti) – Russia and the United States will set up an international conference on Syria by the end of this month that will hopefully include representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
The conference will be aimed at facilitating a solution to the Syrian crisis through political dialogue, Kerry said at a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.
The Syrian government has assured Russia it is ready to participate in the conference, Lavrov said.
“But, of course, so far these are just words that have yet to be transformed into actions,” he said.
The Syrian opposition has not commented on the proposal, Lavrov said. Opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad have refused to sit down for talks with the regime in the past, saying that Assad’s removal is a non-negotiable issue.
The conference would be a follow-up to last year’s international meeting in Geneva that drafted a peace roadmap for Syria, Lavrov said.
The communiqué passed in Geneva by the UN Action Group on Syria, which includes Syria’s neighbors and permanent members of UN Security Council, proposed to start with the creation of a transitional government comprising representatives of the opposition and Assad’s regime.
Both Kerry and Lavrov stressed that Russia and the United States support the Geneva roadmap and see political dialogue as the only solution for Syria. The alternative is increasing violence, a humanitarian crisis and the country’s disintegration, Kerry said.
Moscow and Washington have come to loggerheads over Syria in the past, with the US putting the responsibility for the civil war on Assad’s regime and Russia insisting that the blame should be shared by the opposition. Russia has blocked several UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, saying they were biased in favor of the opposition.
The United States has supported the Syrian opposition, providing the motley coalition of forces that comprises many radical Islamists with non-lethal military equipment.
A bill was also recently filed with the US Senate proposing the supply of weapons to Syrian insurgents. Kerry said the bill’s fate depended on the ongoing US inquiry into reports that the rebels have used chemical weapons, but added the matter may become a moot point if the government and the opposition begin dialogue.
More than 70,000 have died in the two-year-long ongoing conflict in Syria, according to the latest UN estimates.