Russia is proposing talks about a ceasefire in Syria, but European diplomats have expressed concerns about the offer.
The Europeans see the proposal as a way to delay agreement on how to end the Syrian civil war. They say the plan would give Russia time to continue intense airstrikes on Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his country had offered a “quite specific” proposal. He spoke in Germany Thursday as he sat down for talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Russia and the United States are a part of the 17-country International Syria Support Group (ISSG). “We wait for the American response before we take it (the proposal) to the ISSG,” Lavrov said.
Western media reports say Russia wants the ceasefire to take effect on March 1. That would be too late to stop a humanitarian crisis in and around Aleppo.
In Washington, a U.S. government spokesman said the Obama administration wants an immediate truce.
The Russian proposal comes while a Russian-supported Syrian government offensive and siege near Aleppo continues. The fighting and airstrikes have forced thousands of Syrians to flee toward the Turkish border.
Aid groups say nearly 100,000 Syrians have fled from their homes in the past week.
Kerry is also meeting with Syrian opposition leader Riyadh Hijab. On Wednesday, Hijab and other opposition representatives met with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and other officials in London.
Talks between the Syrian government and opposition were suspended in early February. They were halted partly because of opposition concerns about the bombing campaign in Aleppo.
I’m Anne Ball.
VOA State Department correspondent Pamela Dockins reported on this story. Jim Dresbach adapted her report for Learning English. Additional information for this story came from VOANews.com. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
siege – n. a situation in which soldiers or police officers surround a city or building in order to try to take control of it
specific – adj. detailed