Cyprus Mail

Kerry and Lavrov meet amid questions over January 25 Syria talks  

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on Wednesday to discuss Syria’s civil war amid questions as to whether peace talks between the government and the opposition can go ahead on Jan. 25.

“We will see, we will see,” Lavrov said at the start of the meeting in Zurich when asked by a reporter if those talks could go ahead as planned.

Asked whether he and Kerry thought they could agree on who would represent the opposition at the talks, Lavrov said that was mainly an issue for UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, not the two ministers.

Kerry did not comment and De Mistura’s spokeswoman said he also had no comment on Lavrov’s remarks.

The United Nations said on Monday it would not issue invitations to the talks until major powers pushing the peace process, which include the United States and Russia, agree which rebel representatives should attend. The United States and Russia support opposite sides in the conflict.

The US State Department said last week that Kerry and Lavrov had agreed that Jan. 25 Syria peace talks involving the government and opposition groups should go forward without preconditions.

Russia and Iran, which support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have rejected attempts by Saudi Arabia, which like the United States and European powers opposes Assad, to organize the Syrian opposition and delegation for the talks.

A Syrian opposition council formed in Riyadh last month said on Wednesday it would not attend peace negotiations if a third party joins the talks, a reference to a Russian bid to include other groups in the process.

Riad Hijab, who heads the council, accused Russia of impeding negotiations, and also told a news conference in Riyadh that the opposition could not negotiate while Syrians were dying as a result of blockades and bombardment.

He also announced the names of opposition figures that would take part in any talks. They included Mohamed Alloush, a political figure in the Jaysh al-Islam (Islam Army) rebel group that is deemed a terrorist group by Damascus and Moscow.

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