U.S., Russia Nearing Agreement on Syria

Tribune Washington Bureau
Published: 11/11/2017 12:00:53 AM
Modified: 11/11/2017 12:01:01 AM

Washington — The U.S. is nearing agreement with Russia on establishing additional cease-fire zones in Syria, a key step to resolving that country’s brutal civil war.

Some officials had suggested agreement could be announced in a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of Friday’s Asia summit in Vietnam. Moscow announced the meeting would take place, but the White House has said no “formal” encounter is planned.

Nevertheless, State Department officials said that as the battle in Syria shifts from fighting the largely defeated Islamic State, more attention is focusing on the festering civil war and post-war reconstruction. Russia backs the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad while the U.S. nominally supports an armed opposition.

The U.S. and Russia in July agreed on a cease-fire in southeastern Syria that has held together.

“If we can get to another cease-fire zone, that helps get us closer to the Geneva process,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, alluding to the Geneva-based peace process for Syria led by the United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura.

The U.S. and Russia also have been working together on “deconfliction,” meaning establishing procedures for avoiding running into each other on the battlefield or on bombing runs over Syria.

And the U.S. is taking steps to attempt to contain Iran’s influence in the region, inviting Saudi Arabia, archrival of Iran, to pay for and oversee large-scale reconstruction in parts of Syria and Iraq once controlled by Islamic State.

Iran has been allied with Russia and Assad in the Syria war.

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