Russia’s Lavrov to hold talks with U.N. Syria envoy

By Middle East Affairs

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he will hold talks Friday with the United Nation’s Syria peace envoy Staffan de Mistura, according to the foreign ministry.

“I confirm that these talks are planned for Friday,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

De Mistura, Reuters reported, is carrying out an “intensive” round of talks with world powers to jump-start peace talks surrounding Damascus in Eastern Ghouta and the constant fighting between the Syrian regime and rebel groups, his office said in Geneva.

De Mistura met with senior Turkish officials Wednesday in Ankara after attending the Arab League summit, and headed to Moscow and Tehran after for consultations with senior officials, according his office’s statement.

Russia is a staunch ally of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian war. Humanitarian aid has hardly been able to enter Eastern Ghouta to treat or evacuate the sick and wounded. The global community has criticized Syria, Russia and Iran – another ally – for carrying out air strikes that in more than seven years has killed more than 500,000 people.

After a suspected chemical weapons attack April 7 in Douma, the United States, Britain and France carried out joint air strikes in Syria in retaliation against Assad, whom they blame for the attack.

Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Syria last week to inspect the site of the chemical attack, but have not been allowed to enter Douma, especially after gunshots were fired Tuesday while the United Nations Security Council was visiting to assess the situation. France and others have accused Syria and Russia of removing evidence of the chemical attack.

“As of today, Russia and Syria still refuse to give inspectors access to the site of the attack,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement. “It is very likely that proof and essential elements are disappearing from this site.”

The United Nations previously held Syria peace discussions in December and January.

 

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