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Counterproductive accusations

Feb 04,2014 - Last updated at Feb 04,2014

While Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem said recently that the US delegation attending last week’s Geneva II peace conference sought to negotiate with its Syrian counterpart, the spokeswoman for the US State Department denied this claim, saying that nothing of the sort had taken place.

The State Department’s spokeswoman rebutted the Syrian assertion, saying that “at no time did the US offer to negotiate directly with the Syrian regime”.

The US did say, however, that it was prepared to conduct talks with the Syrian delegation, but only through the UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

These claims and counterclaims were made while the head of the Syrian opposition, Ahmad Jarba, was preparing to pay a visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian leadership.

Instead of treating the prospects of US-Syrian talks as a reason for discomfiture, the two sides should welcome any such direct contacts, just as Russia has been trying to do all along with both government and opposition in Syria.

Moscow has shown more statesmanship and maturity in seeking direct contacts with both regime and opposition, even though it has been Damascus’ unyielding supporter, by word and deed, all along.

Jarba’s visit to Moscow may not necessarily thaw the icy relations between the two sides, but the trip is still worth making.

The US should do the same if it really wants to end the Syrian conflict and prevent it from getting entirely out of control.

The same goes for Damascus.

Instead of asking for an apology from Washington for the words US Secretary of State John Kerry uttered against Damascus at the opening of the Geneva II conference in Montreux, the Syrian regime should be ready to engage the US in contacts, which may indeed help defuse the complex situation in the country.

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