Russia, US stress need for cooperation in Syria, UN reschedules peace talks to let ceasefire settle

Civilians fix damaged water pipes in the rebel held al-Ghariyah al-Gharbiyah town, in Deraa province, Syria February 28, 2016. © Alaa Al-Faqir
Russian FM, Sergey Lavrov, and his US counterpart, John Kerry, have stressed the need for cooperation in order to end hostilities in Syria. Meanwhile, the UN has moved Syrian peace talks to March 9 to let the ceasefire in the country settle.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on the phone on late Tuesday, reaffirming the need for cooperation and the achievement of peace in Syria.

"The focus (of the call) was on the implementation of the Russian-American initiative for a cessation of hostilities in Syria and the relevant United Nations Security Council decision," Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The United Nations announced that it will delay the next round of Syria peace talks by two days so that the truce in the country has time to take hold.

The negotiation were initially scheduled for March 7, but UN Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said told Reuters that his organization is "delaying it to the afternoon of [March] 9 for logistical and technical reasons and also for the ceasefire to settle down."

According to the UN envoy, attempts to disrupt the ceasefire must be contained so that they don’t become the focus of the inter-Syrian talks.

"We don't want discussions in Geneva to become a discussion about infringements or not of the ceasefire, we want them to actually address the core of everything," he said.

De Mistura expressed hope that the Syrian sides will focus on constitutional reform, governance, possible elections over the next 18 months, and prisoner exchanges.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Lavrov said that Russia and the US are coordinating the technical aspects of the verification of violations of the ceasefire in Syria.

With regard to the procedure of identifying the incidents of violation of the ceasefire, it is detailed in the agreements of International Syrian Support Group (ISSG),” Lavrov said, recalling that those accords “were approved by the Presidents of Russia and the US and later became a part of the UN Security Council resolution.”

"The specific technical aspects of this process (identification of ceasefire violations) are now being coordinated in the framework of the rules of the procedure to be used by the International Syrian Support Group and its co-chairs (Russia, US),” he stressed.

Lavrov pointed out that the truce, which started in Syria on February 27, is becoming “more stable.”

"We’re moving in the right direction. The cessation of hostilities is settling,” he said.

The minister confirmed that some violations were taking place, but stressed that Moscow’s partners in the UN show understanding and don’t “dramatize” those reports.

“One can’t have a ceasefire without any separate incidents,” Lavrov explained as cited by RIA-Novosti.

The Syrian ceasefire doesn’t include Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat Al-Nusra jihadist groups, military operations against which will continue.

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, also said that there were reports of violations in Syria, but stressed that a decrease in violence was registered across the larger part of the country’s territory.

"So we call on all the parties not to be looking for a way to get out from under the responsibility of the cessation of hostilities, but rather to help the process to hold itself accountable," Kerry is cited by Reuters.

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Kerry told reporters in Germany that Lavrov and him agreed on the phone not to "litigate ... in a public fashion" the reports of violations by both opposition and government forces.

“We are going to track down each alleged violation and work even more now to put in place a construct which will help us to guarantee that missions are indeed missions against Nusra or missions against Daesh," the Secretary of State said.