UNITED NATIONS – Efforts by the United States and Russia to resuscitate a Syrian cease-fire that collapsed after seven days remained stalled on Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly a day after both took part here in an acrimonious session of the International Syria Support Group.
“We exchanged some ideas and we had a little bit of progress. We’re evaluating some mutual ideas in a constructive way,” Kerry said of his talks Friday with Russia’s top diplomat.
Both Washington and Moscow say the cease-fire accord Kerry and Lavrov announced two weeks ago in Geneva offers the only realistic chance for progress toward ending a conflict that has claimed more than 400,000 lives since the spring of 2011.
But the atmosphere between the two great powers has grown frosty following a U.S. airstrike last weekend that killed scores of Syrian government troops – attributed by Washington to a mistake – and Monday’s attack on a Syrian Red Crescent aid convoy, which left at least 20 dead.
The U.S. accuses Russia of bombing the convoy. The Russians deny any involvement and demand a “thorough and impartial” investigation.
Kerry said this week that restoring the shattered truce will require a major gesture on the part of the Syrian government and its allies, demanding the establishment of a no-fly zone over areas controlled by the opposition.
In an address Friday to the General Assembly, Lavrov made it clear that Russia will not accede to Kerry’s demand, insisting instead on the responsibility of the U.S. and it allies to separate “so-called moderate opposition from terrorists.”
Under the plan adopted in Geneva, the cease-fire was supposed to lead to cooperation between the U.S. and Russia in mounting coordinated airstrikes against terrorist groups such as Islamic State and the al-Nusra Front.
The prerequisite for the joint strikes was disentangling the Western-backed rebels from the terrorists.