Kerry heads to Geneva for Syria talks with Russia’s Lavrov
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Kerry heads to Geneva for Syria talks with Russia’s Lavrov

Sides seek durable ceasefire, humanitarian access to conflict-wracked areas and a resumption of peace talks

File: US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
File: US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State John Kerry is leaving Thursday for Geneva, where he will hold high-level talks with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to try to strike a peace deal for Syria, the State Department said.

“Their discussion follows recent conversations on Syria and will focus on reducing violence, expanding humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people, and moving towards a political solution needed to end the civil war,” spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

The State Department did not say when Kerry and Lavrov will hold their talks on Friday, but the top US diplomat will be in Geneva early in the morning.

The meeting in Geneva had been announced Wednesday by Russian diplomats as scheduled for Thursday and Friday, but Washington waited until the last minute to confirm Kerry’s trip.

Both sides have agreed that a deal would involve a durable ceasefire, humanitarian access to conflict-wracked areas and a resumption of peace talks.

Kerry and Lavrov spoke by telephone Thursday on possible US-Russian cooperation aimed at destroying terror groups active in Syria, helping resolve humanitarian problems and promote a political solution to the conflict, the Russian foreign ministry said.

The phone call was a US initiative, the ministry added.

In fact, after five and a half years of chaos in Syria and four months before President Barack Obama leaves office, Kerry is racing after Lavrov to try to secure a deal to end the Syrian crisis.

Their meetings have multiplied across the world, the latest on the sidelines of the Group of 20 major powers in China this week and in Geneva on August 26.

The Syria war has pitted the former Cold War rivals against each other, with Russia flying a bombing campaign in support of Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad and the United States backing rebel groups fighting to oust him from power.

Moscow and Washington are looking for ways to revive a peace plan adopted by the international community in late 2015, which includes a sustainable ceasefire, humanitarian aid and a political transition between the regime and the opposition.

Washington and Moscow also have discussed for months a strengthened military cooperation to ensure the ceasefire holds and to fight together against jihadist groups.

But the many US-Russian contacts have not yielded anything concrete. Russian President Vladimir Putin said there was “some alignment” after meeting with Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit Monday.

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