World Powers Seek Progress on Syria Cease-fire, Humanitarian Aid
The five-year-old war in Syria is the focus of diplomats Tuesday in Vienna where the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) is meeting to discuss stalled political talks, difficulties in maintaining a cease-fire deal and uneven U.N. results in delivering humanitarian aid.
The cease-fire, which went into effect at the end of February, brought a dramatic drop in overall violence in Syria, but that progress has slowly eroded.
“Today is about creating the conditions to better comply with the cease-fire,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, heading into talks. He said another goal would be improving conditions on the ground in Syria so that the opposition would be more inclined to participate in political talks.
The United States and Russia are trying to use their influence to convince competing sides to stand by the agreement as they also try to support peace talks that have so far made little progress.
Both countries are part of the ISSG. But while Russia has backed the Syrian regime, the U.S. has been supporting the moderate opposition.
US, Cuba Working on Agenda to Further Ties
The Cuban foreign ministry's head of U.S. affairs says the two countries have a "very ambitious" agenda for progressing their thaw in relations during U.S. President Barack Obama's final months in office.
Josefina Vidal said Monday after meeting with U.S. officials in Havana that the two sides are working toward cooperation on law enforcement, medicine and agriculture.
Those meetings continue Tuesday with Cuban-born U.S. Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and officials from Cuba's Interior Ministry discussing countering drug traffickers, cybercrime, counterterrorism and illegal migration.
The State Department said future sessions will involve human rights and settling financial claims.
Vidal said progress will be gradual, but that what is important is that normalization of relations has begun. She also expressed hope that whoever wins the U.S. presidential election in November will continue furthering ties with Cuba.