(Recasts, adds details, quotes, background)
By Katie Paul
RIYADH Jan 24 Saudi Arabia and France, both
backers of Syrian rebels, said on Tuesday they hoped Syrian
truce talks in Astana would lead to a resumption of U.N.-led
peace efforts in Geneva and more aid to civilians suffering from
five years of war.
In a joint news conference, foreign ministers Jean-Marc
Ayrault of France and Adel al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia also
suggested that cooperation with new U.S. President Donald Trump
would be important on a range of Middle East issues.
Iran, Russia and Turkey ended truce talks in Kazakhstan on
Tuesday with the announcement of a trilateral mechanism to
observe and ensure full compliance with a shaky truce between
Syrian warring parties.
Saudi Arabia did not take part in the Astana meetings,
though a French envoy attended informally with other Western
counterparts. The talks in Astana come after years of
intermittent talks in Geneva failed to resolve the conflict.
"We wish for the success of today's meeting. But I don't
know if we're going to reach a real agreement. We hope for
negotiations to resume in Geneva," Ayrault said, according to an
interpreter's translation of his remarks.
The next round of Geneva talks, led by the United Nations,
will be held on Feb. 8. The U.N. special envoy for Syria,
Staffan de Mistura, took part in the Astana talks.
Saudi Arabia, one of the chief backers of the rebels, has
not indicated whether it will continue sending them military
support since they were routed from their largest stronghold,
Syria's second city of Aleppo, in December.
The U.S. ambassador to Khazakstan represented Washington at
Jubeir said he was optimistic about the possibilities of
regional powers working with the Trump administration. He
expressed confidence in Trump's cabinet nominees, including
national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom he described as
"an American patriot."
Flynn ruffled feathers with divisive rhetoric on the
campaign trail, such as a Twitter comment that "Fear of Muslims
Ayrault was more circumspect about the likelihood of
cooperation with Trump, and noted that uncertainties existed
about the new administration's policies.
He reiterated support for a Palestinian capital in East
Jerusalem, suggesting a conflict with Trump's plan to move the
U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and raised
questions about U.S. leadership on trade and climate change.
"The U.S. is a powerful country. It's a superpower. And it
carries responsibilities to the world. Even if it is defending
the interests of its people, it cannot defend its people's
interests without a multilateral approach," Ayrault said.
(Reporting by Katie Paul; Writing by William Maclean and Tom
Finn; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)