U.S. and Russian diplomats held “very constructive” talks this week in Moscow as part of an effort to resolve differences in the global response to unrest in Syria, the State Department said Tuesday.
Washington is calling for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while the Russians continue to support him during an uprising that has killed about 5,000 Syrians since March.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman reported that “he felt that he had very constructive talks in Moscow,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“I wouldn’t say that there was a major breakthrough. But I think walking through how we understand the situation on the ground, how the Russians see it... and then beginning to strengthen and deepen our conversation about where we go next in the U.N. Security Council, was very useful.”
She added that the talks in Moscow were likely to lead to greater cooperation at the United Nations, where the Security Council is considering how to respond to the Syrian crisis.
However, Nuland acknowledged disagreement over Russia’s arms sales to the Syrian government.
Feltman “made clear how dangerous we consider this to be,” Nuland said.
Britain, France and the United States condemned Russia’s arms sales to Syria which they said was fueling Assad's deadly crackdown.
On Monday, the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant said Syria planned to buy 36 Russian Yak-130 military training aircraft, days after reports that a Russian ship was carrying 60 tons of weapons and other military equipment to Syria.
The U.N. Security Council has not yet adopted a resolution on the Syrian uprising. The Russians and Chinese disagree with a U.N. proposal they believe would lead to a change of regimes in Syria.
The Europeans want a vote in the Security Council next Monday or Tuesday on a new draft resolution based on the Arab League’s plan to resolve the conflict, diplomats said Tuesday.
The draft resolution, on which Britain, France and Germany are working with the Arab countries, endorses the Arab League’s plan for imposing sanctions on the Syrian regime.
The 22-member Arab League’s proposal asks Assad to transfer power to his deputy and to organize a national unity government within two months that includes his political opponents.
Assad immediately dismissed the plan as meddling in Syria's internal affairs.