US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to discuss with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov next week a paper prepared in Washington last week and which includes the principles for a solution in Syria.
The Tillerson-Lavrov meeting hopes to produce a breakthrough in the Syrian peace talks, which UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura decided to hold in Vienna on January 26 after he failed to convene such a meeting in Geneva or Montreux.
Lavrov will meet with four western and regional foreign ministers in Paris next Tuesday to approve a “paper” prepared by the five ministers’ assistants in Washington last week.
A high-ranking western official told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday there are two signs for being “optimistic” that the year 2018 will be different from its predecessors and might therefore lead to the introduction of new circumstances for a political settlement in Syria.
The first sign is that the administration of US President Donald Trump already approved its new policy on Syria and has reached a number of principles: to be politically involved with its regional and Syrian allies, to kick off talks with the Russians and to enhance the military presence east of the Euphrates River.
In this regard, an official from the People's Protection Units (YPG) told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that the US Army already opened training camps east of the river to train 30,000 members with a budget reaching $400 million.
According to the western official, the second sign for “optimism” is related to Russia.
“Some Russian officials became convinced that Moscow alone is incapable of enforcing a reconciliation in Syria,” the official said.
Moscow decided to twice postpone the Sochi congress on Syria because the conditions to hold the talks were not available. It eventually chose to convene it on January 29, he explained.
Turkish, Russian and Iranian officials are expected to meet on Friday to decide on its agenda and final list of invitees, the official added.
He said that a possible decision to again postpone the Sochi meeting till next February 12 or 13 would favor conditions for talks between Tillerson and Lavrov.
Another official told Asharq Al-Awsat that the western-regional paper on Syria includes constitutional reform to hold parliamentary and presidential elections under UN supervision.
The paper also supports talks based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
It also calls for reforming security apparatuses and improving their performances based on human rights criteria.