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Kerry to meet Putin in Moscow for Syria talks

Syria currently has the best opportunity to end the war, Kerry said [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 March, 2016

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US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week to discuss the Syrian crisis, as peace efforts intensify.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday he will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia next week on the crisis in Syria, after Moscow announced the partial withdrawal of its forces.

"I will be traveling next week to Moscow to meet with President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in order to discuss how we can effectively move the political process forward and try to take advantage of this moment," Kerry said.

In Moscow, Lavrov's spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed to the Russian news agency Interfax that the foreign ministry was making plans for a possible visit by Kerry to Moscow.

Kerry did not give a date for the planned visit, but his spokesman John Kirby later told reporters that it would be after Tuesday next week, when the US envoy returns from a trip to Cuba with President Barack Obama.

Earlier, the White House said "earliest indications" suggest Russia has begun an announced withdrawal of its forces from Syria, where they have been supporting Bashar al-Assad's forces against opposition rebels.

Kerry said that this, along with the opening of indirect UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva, opened a window of possibility to find a negotiated solution to the five-year-old conflict.

"As we mark the fifth anniversary of the start of this horrific war, we may face the best opportunity that we've had in years to end it," Kerry said.

The Syrian opposition also discussed its vision for the transitional political process.
- George Sabra

"The cessation of hostilities has obviously not been perfect. I don't know one that ever has been. And we have raised and we will continue to raise our serious concerns about violations when they occur.

"But with the cessation of hostilities largely holding, Russia's announcement yesterday that it will remove half of its forces immediately and more perhaps from Syria and with the political negotiations reconvening this week in Geneva, we have reached a very important phase in this process."

Meanwhile, the UN special envoy for Syria met with the opposition's High Negotiations Committee in Geneva on Tuesday after holding a moment of silence to mark the five-year anniversary of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.

Committee member George Sabra told The New Arab that the opposition delegation briefed Staffan de Mistura on the regime's violations of the truce and its obstruction of aid delivery to besieged areas.

"The Syrian opposition also discussed its vision for the transitional political process," said Sabra. "That vision is based on the formation of a transitional governing council that enjoys full executive powers".

De Mistura restarted indirect Syrian peace talks in Geneva on Monday by meeting with envoys from Assad's government.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday slammed regional and international powers for fueling the Syrian crisis that has killed over 270,000 people and displaced half of the country's population.

Agencies contributed to this report

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