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UN mediator to meet US, Russian diplomats on Syria

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Lakhdar Brahimi, who is struggling to mediate a peace deal between Syria's warring sides, will meet with high-level Russian and US diplomats in Geneva this week, the UN said Monday.

The UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi will meet with Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Gennady Gatilov and US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Friday, the UN said without providing more details.

The announcement came after Brahimi kicked off fresh Syria peace talks Monday, shuttling between the government and opposition teams in the hope that keeping them separate for a day or two might help achieve more than during a first round last month.

The so-called Geneva II talks were initiated by the United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a key ally of Syria, which pushed for eight months to get the parties to the negotiating table.

Since the talks first began last month, marking the biggest international push so far to end the nearly three-year civil war, Washington and Moscow have remained on the sidelines, allowing the UN and Brahimi to run the show.

But no progress was made during the first round to end the conflict that has already claimed more than 136,000 lives.

And the second round got off to a rocky start Monday with each side continuing to blame the other for escalating violence on the ground.

With the talks at an apparent standstill, Russia on Monday proposed that Moscow and Washington hold a collective meeting with the United Nations and the two sides to try to move things forward.

Mikhail Bogdanov, who shares the deputy foreign minister title with Gatilov, said such talks could be held with the two Syrian delegations jointly or at separate meetings.

"Russia diplomats are approaching the organisation of the negotiating process as creatively as possible," he told the RIA Novosti news agency.

A US official hinted Washington would welcome the idea.

"If additional meetings under UN auspices will help the negotiations move forward, we are very ready to consider these," the official said.

The second round of talks between the Syrian parties is expected to last at least until Friday, but the UN made no mention of them participating in the meeting between Brahimi, Gatilov and Sherman.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140210/un-mediator-meet-us-russian-diplomats-syria