Gulf-Russia talks to focus on Syria: Kuwait

AFP , Wednesday 12 Feb 2014

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet his Gulf Arab counterparts on February 18 for talks expected to focus on the Syria conflict, a Kuwaiti official has said.

Foreign ministry undersecretary Khaled al-Jarallah said the Kuwait City talks, part of regular strategic meetings between the two sides, will discuss topics including the Syrian issue, the official KUNA news agency reported overnight Tuesday.

"The Gulf-Russian strategic dialogue has been set for February 18... It is an important and vital dialogue that both sides pin great hopes on," Jarallah said.

Russia and the energy-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates -- are at loggerheads over the bloody conflict in Syria that is estimated to have claimed more than 136,000 lives.

Russia is a key supporter of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad while the GCC states back rebels bidding to oust him.

The meeting comes with the so-called Geneva II talks in Switzerland making no progress despite appeals by UN-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to end the "nightmare" of the Syrian people.

Moscow is also blocking a draft resolution in the UN Security Council calling for the lifting of all sieges in Syria.

The resolution aims to allow unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid, especially to the besieged Old City of Homs, where thousands of civilians are trapped.

Lavrov on Tuesday called the draft resolution "absolutely unacceptable" because it contained an ultimatum for Assad's government.

Since the start of the Syria crisis, Russia has three times blocked Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring Damascus.

It also demands the withdrawal of all foreign fighters from Syria, including those of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and Iran's Qods Force.

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