Tillerson to Present Lavrov with Western-backed Document on Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to present his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov with a new Washington-prepared document which includes the principles for a solution in Syria, Asharq al-Awsat reports.

The U.S. administration hopes the Tillerson-Lavrov meeting will produce a breakthrough in the Syrian peace talks, which UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura decided to hold in Vienna on January 26 after he failed to convene such a meeting in Geneva or Montreux, the report added.

Next Tuesday, Lavrov will meet with four western and regional foreign ministers in Paris to approve a “paper” prepared by the five ministers’ assistants in Washington last week.

According to a high-ranking western official, there are two signs for being “optimistic” that the year 2018 will be different from its predecessors and might, therefore, lead to the introduction of new circumstances for a political settlement in Syria.

The official said the first sign is that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump already approved its new policy on Syria and has reached a number of principles: to be politically involved with its regional and Syrian allies, to kick off talks with the Russians and to enhance military presence east of the Euphrates River.

According to the western official, the second sign for “optimism” is related to Russia.

“Some Russian officials became convinced that Moscow alone is incapable of enforcing a reconciliation in Syria,” the official said.

An official from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said on Monday that the U.S. Army already opened training camps east of the river to train 30,000 members with a budget reaching $400 million. Also on Monday, Lavrov disparaged Washington’s plan for a Kurdish ‘border force’ in Syria.

“This is a very serious issue, which causes concerns that a course was set for the partition of Syria,” the minister said. He also claimed there was no difference between Trump and former President Barack Obama’s policies in Syria, accusing the U.S. of supporting forces that did “not wish to put an end to the conflict as soon as possible.”

Moscow decided to twice postpone the Sochi congress on Syria because the conditions to hold the talks were not available. It eventually chose to convene it on January 29, he explained. Turkish, Russian and Iranian officials are expected to meet on Friday to decide on its agenda and final list of invitees, the official added.

The western-regional paper on Syria reportedly includes constitutional reform to hold parliamentary and presidential elections under UN supervision. The paper also supports talks based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254. It also calls for reforming security apparatuses and improving their performances based on human rights criteria.