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Are Russia, US back to square one on Syria?

Days before the Syrian foreign minister's visit to Moscow, Russia's ambassador to the United States met with US officials to discuss concerns over a possible US retaliatory attack on Syria. The meetings come amid Syrian preparations to retake Idlib and an increase in the Russian and US naval military presence in the Mediterranean.
The U.S. flag flutters on a military vehicle in Manbej countryside, Syria May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Aboud Hamam - RC11141AD840

MOSCOW — On Aug. 30, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem came to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. In recent weeks, political clouds over Syria have been piling up. These include President Bashar al-Assad's apparent preparations for a phased offensive on Idlib; that Russia and Turkey have been actively engaging behind the scenes to work the crisis out; that the United States has warned Damascus of grave consequences over a possible use of chemical weapons; and that both Russian and American militaries are beefing up their military presence in the Mediterranean.

The day before the Muallem visit to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had a phone discussion with Syrian opposition leader Nasra al-Hariri to discuss possible options for a peace settlement in Syria. The conversation is part of an effort by Moscow to establish a dialogue line between Damascus and what Russia sees as “constructive opposition.”

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