U.N.'s Ban raises Syrian worries with Russia

Aug. 9, 2013 at 1:57 PM
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UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Russian foreign minister he was concerned about the "disconcerting" violence in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov led delegates for bilateral talks with U.S. officials this week. The Kremlin said Thursday there was still room for amicable talks despite the acrimony related to Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence analyst granted political asylum in Moscow after leaking secrets to the media.

Ban met late Thursday with Lavrov for a working dinner at U.N. headquarters. His office said the secretary-general pressed the Russian minister to work toward a political solution to the Syrian crisis.

"[Both sides] discussed the escalating humanitarian crisis and the disconcerting rise in sectarian violence in Syria," Ban's office said in a statement published Friday.

Russia has been criticized for speaking in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Russian government counts Syria as a top weapons customer. It says efforts to resolve the situation so far have been slanted in favor of rebel forces.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to raise the issue when he meets in Washington with Lavrov.

"Though the United States and Russia both play important roles here, it's ultimately up to the Syrians and both sides to commit to a path forward," she said.

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