Kerry, Lavrov expect Syria peace talks to start this month

Russian foreign minister and US counterpart discuss plans for Syria peace talks as well as cooperation on aid supplies for Syrians

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for their meeting on Syria, in Zurich, Switzerland on January 20, 2016

Updated Jan 22, 2016

Internationally-brokered talks between Syria's government and opposition groups are expected to begin within a few days, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday, after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

"We are sure that in the next few days, in January, these talks should begin," he told reporters after the meeting held in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The Syria peace talks are due to begin on January 25.

Lavrov rejected suggestions that the negotiations might be postponed until February amid the disagreements over who will represent the opposition, adding that the United Nations would set the final date, as it is leading the process.

The US, European powers, Turkey and Saudi Arabia back Assad leaving power and support the moderate opposition groups fighting against the regime. Russia and Iran on the other hand have been strong allies of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad -to whom they provide help, including financial aid and weapons.

Western and Turkey-Saudi Arabia backed opposition groups fighting against the Assad regime have already said that they would not attend the meeting before the regime ends its siege of Madaya.

Closer coordination on aid 

The Russian foreign minister said that he and Kerry had also discussed Russia’s air campaign in Syria and Moscow’s cooperation with the United States on Syrian aid supplies.

Kerry did not make any comments on Wednesday, but his spokesman John Kirby said that Kerry pressed Russia to provide aid for Syrians.

"Secretary Kerry pressed for Russia to use its influence with the Assad regime to ensure immediate, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to all Syrians in need, especially those in besieged areas such as Madaya," Kirby said after the talks in Zurich.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that at least 3,000 people including more than 1,000 civilians, have been killed in Russian air strikes since September 30.  

Russia is an ally of the Syrian regime and says its air strikes are hitting DAESH and other "terrorist" group positions.

However, activists and rebels accuse Moscow of also targeting moderate opposition fighters rather than DAESH.

A US-led coalition has also been conducting air strikes against DAESH in Syria since September 2014, but it does not coordinate its raids with Damascus.

TRTWorld and agencies