Having abruptly broken off bilateral relations last week with Russia, Washington had to save face by re-engaging with Moscow this weekend in a "multi-lateral" format.
It was noticeable that as foreign ministers of seven Mideast countries held talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne on the Syrian conflict, the two main players were US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Kerry had convened the meeting and it was clear to observers that talking with his Russian guest was Kerry's primary intention. The two men held separate preliminary discussions, before being joined later by diplomats from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Since the ceasefire pact worked out last month by Kerry and Lavrov collapsed during the final week of September, there has been a frenzied campaign of recriminations conducted by Washington and its allies against Russia.
Kerry has even called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes over its renewed military operations in the battleground city of Aleppo, where the Russian air force is providing crucial support to the Syrian army. The provocative claims have been echoed by French and British leaders, with Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson going as far as demanding public protests outside the Russian embassy -- an agitprop that has been ignored by Britons.
Washington and its allies have accused Russian and Syrian forces of targeting civilian centers and hospitals in the eastern part of Aleppo, which has been under siege by anti-government militants for nearly four years. The Western media have amplified these claims without question, which are largely based on unverified "activist"sources from within east Aleppo, even though there are good grounds to suspect that these sources are dubious and indeed linked to terror groups.
In any case, Russia and Syria have rejected Western allegations of war crimes. They say that they are simply exercising the sovereign right to take back control of Syria's second city from 8,000 illegally armed insurgents. The insurgents are mainly dominated by the internationally proscribed terror group, Jabhat al Nusra (renamed Jabhat al Fatah al Sham), which is holding much of the 275,000 civilian population as hostages and human shields.
To bolster its agenda of portraying Russia as a pariah state, Washington declared last week that Kerry would no longer be holding bilateral talks with Lavrov. Menacingly, the Americans said they would henceforth be exploring "non-diplomatic options"and began dropping heavy hints in the media that supplying anti-aircraft missiles to the militants was one of those options.
Another objective being pushed is the setting up of no-fly zones around Aleppo, which Russia has firmly resisted, saying that such an initiative contravenes Syrian sovereignty and would in effect provide air cover for terror groups to marshal their units.
But despite all the blustering rhetoric condemning Russia, there was no concealing John Kerry's keenness to re-engage with Lavrov when the pair met up this weekend at Lake Geneva. There is something incongruous, or perhaps disingenuous, in Kerry hosting his Russian counterpart with such relish after a relentless US-orchestrated media campaign over the past three weeks aimed at demonizing Russia as a war criminal over Syria.
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