US, Russia Continue Talks over Syria as Moscow Proposes Ceasefire

Two of the major world powers continued discussions on the Syrian crisis on Thursday, the same day the Russians put forth a plan calling for a timeline on starting another Syrian ceasefire. Russia’s envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, according to RIA Novosti, said on Thursday his country is set to propose at an international meeting on Syria that the sides stop fighting by a specific date.

Churkin was quoted by Novosti as saying that in addition to calling for the Syrian fighting to end, they want the international meeting to seek for the Syrian government and opposition to “appoint their representatives for the start of talks by the time” a ceasefire is reached.

Syria has been wracked with conflict for roughly 17 months, as the Bashar al-Assad regime has cracked down on the opposition with troops, artillery and aircraft. The peaceful protests against Assad’s rule have also grown into an armed rebellion.

US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman on Thursday spoke with Russian counterparts in Russia on Syria and other matters, including Iran. A statement from the US State Department said that “as usual, the discussions were direct and fulsome.” Regarding Syria, the statement said the US believes the “beginning of a political process is in the international community’s long-term interests.”

US spokesperson Victoria Nuland, according to a transcript of her comments released by the State Department, said the US continues to talk with Russia about Syria, despite Russia’s recent vetoe of UN action on Syria.

“We’ve been trying to work with Russia for many, many, many months on Syria,” said Nuland, lamenting the Russian resistance over the summer to UN sanctions on Assad for not moving forward on the UN peace plan or the political transition plan.

“Our lines of communication with Russia remain open on this subject, as evidenced by the fact that Under Secretary Sherman is there today, and we’re also talking in New York,” said Nuland.

She sounded noncommittal on the Russian international meeting proposal. “As we’ve said all along, to have meetings for meetings’ sake is not what any of us needs to do,” said Nuland. “What we need to do is have meetings that support the Syrian people and support an end to the bloodshed.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, August 16, 2012)