April 15, 2018 / 3:56 PM / 2 months ago

Austria's Kurz calls for resumption of Syrian peace talks in Vienna

ZURICH (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has called for a resumption of Syrian peace talks, which took place in Vienna in 2015, to halt the bloodshed in the devastated country.

Austria's Chancellor Sebastian Kurz addresses the media after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Austria, April 4, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Kurz said no military solution appeared possible in the conflict which had already caused massive suffering for the Syrian people.

“After the shocking use of chemical weapons on April 7 and the recent Western military action in Syria, it is now the order of the day to remember reason and to press ahead with the diplomatic peace process with all necessary vigour,” Kurz said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Syrian population had already suffered too much with over 400,000 deaths and over five million refugees outside Syria.”

Kurz said there could be no military solution to the conflict and therefore appealed “to all responsible actors” to continue the peace talks of the ‘International Syria Support Group’ took place between 20 different groups in Vienna in 2015.

A further escalation of the Syrian “proxy war” or even a direct military conflict between the US and Russia must be prevented by all means, Kurz added in a statement received by Reuters.

Austria has a long tradition as a place of dialogue and a bridge builder in conflicts, most recently in the Iranian nuclear deal, he said, with Austria ready to host talks over Syria at any time.

Since Kurz, a conservative, formed a coalition government with the far-right and pro-Putin Freedom Party in December, Austria had repeatedly said it wants to serve as a “bridge-builder” between east and west.

It repeated that position when it declined to follow most other EU countries in expelling one or several Russian diplomats over the poisoning by nerve agent of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. Britain has blamed the attack on Russia but Vienna said it wanted to keep lines of communication with Moscow open.

Reporting by John Revill; Additional reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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