Back where they started, the United States, Russia and others trying to help mediate Syria's civil war are searching for a diplomatic process that could succeed where last month's collapsed cease-fire failed. With the Syrian and Russian governments pressing an offensive against rebel-held parts of the city of Aleppo, no one was predicting a quick breakthrough. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was leading the renewed talks, which began Saturday afternoon. He was joined by a familiar cast that included Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the top envoys from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan. Kerry described the meeting as a "brainstorming" session that had produced ideas, if not agreements. He said contacts among foreign ministers would continue in the coming days.
I would characterize this as exactly what we wanted. There were some difficult moments, where there was obviously tension, but everybody was constructive.Kerry
Saturday's gathering also brought together many of the major protagonists in Yemen's war, which pits the government against the Shiite Houthi rebels and allied army units loyal to a former president. A Saudi-led coalition has been intervening on the side of the government since March 2015. Kerry says the Houthi rebels released two U.S. citizens on Saturday, without identifying the Americans. They were freed as part of complicated diplomatic arrangement that included airlifts for Yemenis wounded by an airstrike this past week carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. The bombing of the packed funeral hall last weekend, which killed 140 people and wounded 600, appears to have galvanized diplomatic efforts. An internal probe by the coalition said Saturday that the strike was carried out based on "wrong information" and had not been approved by the coalition's top command.