MOSCOW, October 30 (RIA Novosti) – Top Russian and US diplomats have discussed the situation in Syria and preparation for the Geneva-2 international conference designed to get the Middle Eastern country’s government and opposition groups to meet for peace talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to each other by phone on Tuesday. The conversation was held on Kerry’s initiative, the ministry said Tuesday, adding that the sides in particular spoke about the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian crisis.
A Syrian government representative recently said Geneva-2 will start November 23. However, only the United Nations has the authority to set the date, and major Syrian opposition groups remain reluctant to take part.
According to UN statistics, more than 100,000 people have died in the 2 1/2-year civil war in Syria. The number of refugees caused by the conflict hit 2 million in September, the UN said.
International experts began eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons in early October, in accordance with a US-Russian plan to seize and destroy the arsenal. The plan was approved in September 2013 by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and supported by a UN Security Council resolution.
The plan has so far helped avoid foreign military intervention in Syria.
The United States considered a “limited” series of air strikes on Syrian government targets as punishment for a number of chemical attacks that killed civilians. Russia has said there is no definitive evidence as to whether Syria’s ruling regime was responsible for all such chemical attacks.