Kerry, Russian foreign minister meet on Syria

Discussion focuses on the war in Syria and plans for an international peace conference, a senior State Department official said.

John kerry open arms 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
John kerry open arms 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)

KIRUNA, Sweden - US Secretary of StateJohn Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met lateon Tuesday for a discussion focused on the war in Syria andplans for an international peace conference, a senior StateDepartment official said.

Kerry updated his Russian counterpart on his discussionswith the Syrian rebels and officials from countries involved inthe talks and his plans to participate in a meeting in Jordannext week ahead of the international conference, a senior StateDepartment official said.

Russia has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, blocking new sanctions against Syria at the UnitedNations and supplying the government with arms.

Kerry had said earlier on Tuesday he expected the proposedpeace conference to be held in early June, and denied reportsthat the Damascus government did not plan to attend.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said earlier in theday that Assad's government, fighting an insurgency thatthreatens to draw in Syria's neighbors, wanted specifics onsuch a conference before it decides whether to be part of it.

Kerry is visiting Sweden for a meeting of the ArcticCouncil, a grouping of eight nations with Arctic territory.

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Kerry had said earlier the exact timing of the Syria peacenegotiations was up to the United Nations, but that he expectedit would take place in early June, noting that a great deal ofwork had already taken place.

"I have talked with almost all of the foreign ministers inthe core group who will be meeting next week together in orderto lay plans for this negotiation. The members of the oppositionhave been in touch," he said.

At his earlier news conference, Kerry reiterated the Obamaadministration's desire for a peaceful resolution to thetwo-year-long Syrian civil war, which has killed at least 82,000people by an opposition estimate and could destabilize the widerMiddle East.

Assad's departure has been a demand of the opposition sincethe revolt started and previous peace initiatives have founderedover the failure to settle on the president's future role.