The United States and Russia continue discussions on a post-Assad transition strategy despite some disagreements on approaches to the settlement of a political crisis in Syria, the U.S. State Department said.
U.S. Deputy State Secretary Robert Burns met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday on the sidelines of the Hearts of Asia ministerial meeting in Kabul to discuss a wide range of issues, including the situation in Syria.
“It was a constructive conversation. I won't say there aren't still gaps. There are still gaps, but it was a constructive conversation. And we're continuing to talk to the Russians about this [crisis in Syria],” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at a news briefing on Thursday.
Russia has twice – along with China - vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it calls a pro-rebel bias, but has, however, fully backed UN envoy Kofi Annan’s six-point plan, which calls for the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from urban areas and a ceasefire to end 15-months of spiraling violence there.
Western powers are trying to persuade Russia to apply pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad and convince him to cede the power in the country to opposition before the current crisis escalates to a civil war.
According to UN estimates, over 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011, which started with peaceful protests but has since grown increasingly violent.