Russia sees progress with U.S., Saudi on Syria

Syrian-Americans protest Russian intervention in Syria outside a Russian consular office in Santa Monica. (Reuters)

Moscow, Washington and Riyadh did not agree in full “as yet” on the final solution for the Syria crisis, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday but said there was clear progress in talks between the countries on the conflict.

Lavrov’s statemets comes after President Vladimir Putin on Sunday met with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Russia.

The two discussed Syria and steps to establish a peace process in the war-torn country.

Turkey to hold talks with Russia, Iran

Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday that Ankara would hold talks with Russia and Iran to work towards a political solution in Syria but would not take a foreign policy stance which “legitimizes the Syrian regime.”

Davutoglu said in an interview on NTV that Russian air strikes in Idlib and Aleppo in Syria could cause a further influx of refugees into Turkey.

Russian strikes against rebels helped pro-government forces reclaim territory in Syria over the weekend and on Monday, dealing a fresh setback to opposition groups supported by Turkey and the United States.

Russia was previously criticized for not targeting Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) targets in Syria. On Monday, Russia’s Defence Ministry said Russian military airplanes had carried out 55 sorties in Syria in the past 24 hours and hit 53 ISIS targets there, Russian news agencies reported.

In the same time, Syria-based missile systems harassed four Turkish F-16 warplanes near the border between the two countries on Sunday, Turkey’s military said in a statement on Monday, adding that its units gave the “necessary response.”

The military did not specify what that response was, but it was the first time it referred to such a response after around a week of harassments of its jets.

EU condemns Russia strikes

In a related story, the European Union urged Russia on Monday to halt its aerial bombing campaign in Syria but the bloc’s 28 member states failed to agree among themselves on whether President Bashar al-Assad should have any role in ending the crisis.

Seeking a common front in their criticism of Russia’s dramatic military intervention in Syria, EU foreign ministers warned that air strikes designed to support Assad could also deepen the 4-1/2-year civil war that has killed 250,000 people.

THUMBNAIL75x50_EU nations criticize Russia's military moves in Syria

THUMBNAIL75x50_EU nations criticize Russia's military moves in Syria



Ministers also sought to further pressure Assad by agreeing to broaden the EU’s economic sanctions criteria to people benefiting from his government, a move essentially aimed at freezing the assets of the spouses of senior figures, although no names have been added to the EU’s list.

“The recent Russian military attacks ... are of deep concern and must cease immediately,” ministers said in their most strongly-worded statement on Russia’s intervention.

“The military escalation risks prolonging the conflict, undermining a political process, aggravating the humanitarian situation and increasing radicalization,” said the ministers, meeting in Luxembourg.

EU leaders are also expected to criticize Russia at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, EU officials say.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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