Beirut (AsiaNews) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met this morning with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Vienna (Austria) in an attempt to untangle the Syrian crisis. They are expected to meet later with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The tête-à-tête is a sign of Moscow’s renewed importance in the Middle East conflict following the start of its bombing campaign against terrorist targets in support of the Syrian government of Bashar Assad. By allowing Assad to recoup and regain lost ground, Russia’s military intervention in Syria is thus proving to be a game changer.
Whilst opposing the Islamic State, Washington, Riyadh and Ankara directly or indirectly support groups fighting Assad. Assad’s future remains the main stumbling block between the two sides.
Although the US and its allies want the Syrian leader removed, Washington has recently expressed some flexibility. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar however remain on their set positions.
The high-level meeting follows the surprise visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Moscow for talks with Putin on Tuesday, the embattled leader's first foreign visit since 2011.
"It's always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists while simultaneously trying to use some of them to arrange the pieces on the Middle East chess board in one's own interests," Putin said at a meeting of political scientists in Sochi known as the Valdai Club.
As evinced by its recent moves, Russia is also not adverse at defending its own interests in the region, like its permanent naval installation in Tartus.
Meanwhile, in and around Syria, weapons and fighters are still flowing in, as most Syrians grow tired by nearly five years of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people.
Worse still, according to some regional military experts, without a diplomatic solution, the Syrian war is likely to spread throughout the region.