Vienna – An expanded meeting of the foreign ministers of sixteen countries started on Friday in the Austrian Capital of Vienna to discuss means of pushing forward the political settlement for the crisis in Syria.
The foreign ministers are those of Russia, the US, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Germany, France, Egypt, Italy, Britain, Iraq and Lebanon.
The UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and the European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini are attending the talks.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today’s talks in Vienna will focus not “on [President Bashar] al-Assad’s fate but on the Syrian settlement,” stressing that “only the Syrians can determine the political future of Bashar al-Assad.”
He added that the “search for a political solution of the Syrian conflict has no alternative,” noting that “all the interested sides were taking part in the Vienna talks, mainly states, which can make a contribution into the settlement.”
The Russian President’s Special Representative for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told the reporters in Vienna that the parties taking part in the meeting will exchange lists of the groups and opposition factions which are to be engaged in the political process.
The Russian side, he added, has already prepared a list of 38 groups and organizations that are deemed by Moscow as terrorist and therefore should be combated, noting that Moscow list can be expanded.
The Saudi side has handed its own list, and the American side has promised to hand a list, Bogdanov said.
The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed hope to make progress at the meeting, saying that this however is being “so difficult”.
A quartet meeting on Syria that brought together the foreign ministers of Russia, the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia was held on Thursday in Vienna, only a week after a similar meeting had earlier taken place.