Washington and Moscow have a good chance of progressing on Syria in Geneva on Saturday, said Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov as he emerged from an hour of tense talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Unfortunately, no significant agreement has been reached but Lavrov voiced cautious optimism about the upcoming talks stressing that Friday’s meeting with Clinton in St Petersburg was “one of the most productive” so far. “Syria dominated the international affairs section. I felt Hillary Clinton’s position has changed,” Lavrov said after the meeting. “She said she understands our position. We have agreed with Hillary Clinton to look for agreements on Syria which would bring us closer together,” he added.
Mr Lavrov acknowledged however that the Geneva talks are unlikely to resolve all the existing questions.
As Hillary Clinton did not give a press conference following the meeting with her Russian counterpart, it is hard to see whether the US position has actually changed, RT’s Lucy Kafanov remarked from St Petersburg.
Despite Lavrov’s optimism, a US official told reporters after the meeting that “there are still areas of difficulty and difference.”
Talking about the chances of an agreement being reached in Geneva, the official said: “We may get there, we may not.”
The two powers discussed Kofi Annan’s unity government plan ahead of a crucial meeting on Syria in Geneva on Saturday, which will bring together UN Security Council members and some European and Middle Eastern leaders.
Annan’s plan does not call for Assad’s ouster, but pushes for the creation of a transitional government that would exclude figures that jeopardize stability.
“There was no word this plan is not feasible,” remarked Lavrov on Friday.
Political analyst Benjamin Barber believes that the goal of everybody in the region is to contain hostilities within Syria’s borders. “It would be devastating for the region if hostilities broke out in Lebanon or in Turkey or on the Iraqi border in ways that could implicate the entire Middle East.”
He stressed that it was therefore in everybody’s interest to avoid an intensification of the conflict as the Libyan scenario shows how devastating the consequences can be. “We’ve learned in Libya that the price of military intervention is very very high,” he said.
Barber pointed out that even if NATO’s intervention had started with good intentions to prevent civilians from being massacred, it had resulted in killing more civilians than Gaddafi had, and led to a virtual tribal war and the break-up of Libya.
“Replicate this situation in a post-interventionist stage in Syria, where the chaos that we are seeing now is multiplied by a hundred times,” he concluded.