US, Russia to meet ahead of Syria peace talks

US, Russia to meet to discuss violations of cessation of hostilities agreement in Syria ahead of peace talks in Geneva

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attend a news conference after the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 12, 2016.

US and Russian officials were to meet on Saturday to discuss opposition accusations of violations of a cessation of hostilities agreement by the Syrian regime but peace talks will continue, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

On Friday - few days before the talks are set to continue - air raids by the Syrian regime killed seven civilians in rebel-held areas of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based monitoring group called the strikes "the most serious violation in the city since the truce came into effect."

Asked whether peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition could go ahead as planned on Monday. Kerry said "Yes, it can."

"Our teams are meeting today with Russia in both Geneva and Amman, where very detailed lay downs will take place regarding these allegations and I am requesting a call with Foreign Minister [Sergei] Lavrov today and we will work through these and we have been each day," he said regarding the opposition's complaints.

Kerry, who met Saudi Arabia's King Salman for talks on Syria, said that "perceived" violations of the cessation of hostilities deal that went into effect on February 27 should not obstruct the UN-mediated peace talks.

"The level of violence by all accounts has been reduced by 80 to 90 percent, which is very, very significant. And what we want to do is continue to work to reduce these," Kerry said.

The two-week cessation of hostilities has created a break in fighting between the Russian-backed regime and moderate rebels.

The US State Department said the cessation of hostilities "has produced a dramatic reduction in violence" but it warned the regime was still carrying out attacks on civilians and rebels.

"Despite the reduction in violence nationwide, we remain deeply concerned by continued specific violations to the cessation of hostilities, including attacks on civilians and opposition forces by the regime and its supporters," spokesman John Kirby said.

The HNC agreed on Friday to attend the talks.

The HNC said it would focus on creating a "transitional governance body with full executive powers," while insisting Assad "will have no place" in a future government.

The Assad regime announced last month that it would hold parliamentary elections on April 13 instead, drawing criticism.

TRTWorld and agencies