Russia, U.S. and U.N. to hold Syria talks in Geneva on Dec. 11

MOSCOW/GENEVA (Reuters) - Russia, the United States and the United Nations will hold three-way talks on the Syria crisis in Geneva on Friday, the U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday.

News of the meeting was first reported by Russia’s RIA news agency, citing Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.

“We will present our vision of the situation (in Syria), with emphasis on the need to intensify the fight against terrorism. It is a priority for us. We call for an increase in joint efforts in this area,” Gatilov said.

Neither U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry nor Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who meet in Moscow next week, will attend the Geneva meeting.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, will represent Washington at the meeting, the U.S. State Department said.

Contacts between Kerry and Lavrov were key to holding two international meetings in Vienna in October and November, where countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, backed a plan for De Mistura to oversee talks between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva in January.

De Mistura told Reuters Friday’s Geneva talks were part of preparatory work. He declined to go into detail about the talks, which he initiated.

“It’s to talk about how to better organize the future Vienna meetings,” he said.

The next “Vienna” meeting is in fact most likely to be in New York later this month. But Kerry has said the New York meeting hinges on efforts currently under way in Saudi Arabia to unite Syrian opposition groups.

De Mistura said the Geneva meeting was not intended to review the outcome of the effort to unite the Syrian opposition.

“It would be a little bit early if that was the case.”

Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Tom Miles; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Cynthia Osterman