Western powers and allies start new Syrian initiative in Paris
Representatives of leading Western and Arabic states on Thursday agreed a new diplomatic initiative aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict, with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying that they had "fired the starting gun" for efforts to bring about peace.
Less than two weeks after the United States, France and Britain bombed what they said were Syrian chemical weapons facilities, representatives met in Paris to discuss the conflict's diplomatic track.
Germany took part for the first time in the meeting of the so-called "small group" on Syria, which also includes Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Maas made clear before the meeting that Germany would be ready to play a role in the initiation of talks with Russia.
"If that's what's wanted - and that's what we have to talk about - then of course we're ready to get involved," Maas said. "We assume that everyone will use the opportunities that they have to make a contribution towards a political solution."
The U.S. was represented at the talks by Middle Eastern envoy David Satterfield, the other five countries by their respective foreign ministers.
The U.S., France and Britain struck targets in Syria earlier this month in response to what they said was a chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town outside Damascus in which dozens of people were killed.
In the aftermath of the strikes, French President Emmanuel Macron repeated his calls for more efforts to bring about an inclusive negotiated settlement in Syria, torn apart by seven years of conflict.
Macron's prime minister, Edouard Philippe, later suggested that the small group should open negotiations with Turkey and government allies Iran and Russia.
Turkey, Iran and Russia have pursued a separate negotiating track - which has brought about a partial de-escalation of hostilities in some parts of Syria - since Ankara, a key rebel backer, pivoted towards Moscow on the Syria issue in 2016.
Many observers, however, say that with more and more of the country now under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's forces, any political compromise is even less likely than before. (dpa)