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Syria conference not before August — Kerry

US, Russia agree that they have an ability to make a difference if they can pull together, says Kerry

Image Credit: AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement to thepress after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister SergeiLavrov at the US Embassy in Brunei on Tuesday.
Gulf News

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei: US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that both the US and Russia are seriously committed to having an international conference on Syria and setting up a transitional government to end the bloodshed and “save the state of Syria.”

Kerry said the two countries both believe the meeting should take sooner rather than later, but acknowledged it might not be possible until August or later. Such an international meeting, which has been delayed several times before, is known as “Geneva II” because it follows a Syria meeting in the Swiss city in June 2012.

Kerry spoke outside the US Embassy in Brunei after a 90-minute-plus meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asian security summit.

Russia has been a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime in the two-year civil war that has claimed more than 93,000 lives. But Kerry said the US and Russia agreed that they have an ability to make a difference if they can pull together.

“Our objective remains the same — that to recognise the notion that there really isn’t a military victory, per se, for Syria that keeps Syria as a country,” Kerry said. “And No 2, that we have an obligation to try to work towards a peaceful resolution because a peaceful settlement is the best way to save the state of Syria and to minimise destruction.”

He emphasised that the first international conference called for a transitional government for Syria “with a neutral environment by mutual consent to a full transfer of power.”

Last month, Lavrov said the US was sending conflicting signals to the rebels. While the US said it favoured a peace conference in Geneva, Lavrov said, talk about a possible no-fly zone encouraged the opposition to step up fighting instead of sitting down for talks.

“The message the opposition is getting: Guys, don’t go to Geneva, don’t say you are going to negotiate with the regime, soon things will change in your favour,” Lavrov said then.

On Tuesday, Lavrov declined to sum up his meeting with Kerry, telling reporters only that their discussion was “excellent.”

Syria was also the focus of Kerry’s discussion with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. A senior US State Department official said the two discussed ways to strengthen support to the opposition and step up plans for an international conference to resolve the crisis.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the closed-door meeting, said Kerry and his Turkish counterpart also discussed how to expand the Syrian people’s access to humanitarian aid. He said both men expressed concern over recent Al Assad regime attacks on civilians in the central province of Homs and the influx of fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.