Little optimism as US considers next steps in Syria

Story highlights

  • The meeting comes at a critical time in the conflict
  • None of the parties are expressing much optimism ahead of the talks

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama convened Friday a meeting of his National Security Council as the international community struggles to pursue an ever-elusive path toward peace in war-torn Syria.

In a gaggle with reporters before the meeting, Deputy White House Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the administration was focused on several goals with regard to Syria, including securing a reduction in violence, expanding access for humanitarian aid and ultimately helping to pave the way for a political transition.
    The meeting comes at a critical time in the conflict, being referred to by some of the world's top diplomats as a "moment of truth" and a potential "turning point."
    Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with international partners in the scenic lakeside city of Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday to discuss the path forward in Syria and see whether a new ceasefire agreement can be reached following a month of intense violence in and around Aleppo.
    But none of the parties are expressing much optimism ahead of the talks.
    "I certainly don't want to overplay or underplay our expectations for Lausanne," Deputy State Department Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday, adding that "the urgent need right now in front of us is some kind of cessation of hostilities, at least a significant reduction in the level of violence, certainly in and around Aleppo, and that's going to be a primary focus."
    "I would just say that we're looking to get this multilateral effort and approach to Syria up and running," Toner said.
    But for even that to work, the US would need cooperation from Russia -- one of the primary backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    "I have no special expectations," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during press conference Friday. "We would like to work in a concrete way and to see first to what degree our partners are prepared to comply with UN Security Council resolutions."
    The Obama administration suspended all bilateral engagement on Syria with the Russian government earlier this month after the disintegration of a previous cease fire and a series of escalating accusations.