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U.S. Envoy To Visit Moscow, Riyadh This Week On Syrian Conflict

The newly appointed U.S. special envoy for Syria will travel to Moscow, Geneva, and Riyadh this week in an attempt to find a political solution to the four-year old Syrian conflict, officials said August 26.

Michael Ratney will meet with Russian officials in Moscow August 28 and Saudi officials in Riyadh August 29 "to continue discussions about working towards a genuine political transition and bringing an end to the devastating crisis in Syria," an official said.

In Geneva, he will meet with the United Nation's special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

Ratney, who has previously worked for the State Department in Jerusalem, Doha, and other cities in the Middle East, was appointed to his current post in July.

The United States has stepped up efforts in recent weeks to find an end to the four-year Syrian crisis, including at an August 3 meeting in Doha between Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

That was followed by another meeting between Kerry and Lavrov on August 5 in Kuala Lumpur and one August 24 in Massachusetts between the top U.S. diplomat and Jubeir -- all focused on the Syrian conflict.

"The secretary wants to continue to explore options with the Russians and with Saudi Arabia on what those political options might look like," said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

On August 17, for the first time in two years, the UN Security Council, including Russia, agreed to push for a political solution.

The Obama administration has long insisted that a political solution in Syria must include the exit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Moscow and Tehran.

The United States has welcomed initiatives by Russia and the UN to convene new talks, although Washington insists that it must be done under the so-called Geneva framework, which proposes a transitional governing body in Syria.

Attempts last year to revive the UN-backed Geneva process between the Western-backed Syrian opposition and a government delegation failed after the sides disagreed over Assad's exit.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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