No direct meetings to start Syria peace talks: Kerry

DAVOS, Switzerland -- The opposing sides will not initially meet face-to-face in planned Syria peace talks in Geneva next week, U.S.

See Full Article

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday, a sign that obstacles remain in the latest diplomatic push to end the conflict.

The first U.N.-brokered meeting in the Swiss city will be "proximity talks" in which representatives of the government and opposition will gather separately, Kerry said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The talks are tentatively planned to take place Monday, but diplomats say that could slip by up to a few days.

The cautious, step-by-step approach points to the delicate task faced by U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, who is eager to make concrete progress toward ending the nearly five-year-old war that has claimed more than 250,000 lives, displaced millions and given an opening to the extremist Islamic State group to seize land.

The intra-Syrian talks also come against the backdrop of a string of recent battlefield victories by the government that have bolstered President Bashar Assad's hand and plunged the rebels into disarray, raising the prospect that the Geneva talks could become moot as the situation on the ground evolves.

"You are not going to have a situation where people are sitting down at the table staring at each other or shouting at each other," Kerry. "You're going to have to build some process here."

Such talks have fallen apart before: An attempt in Montreux, Switzerland, in January and February 2014 collapsed when the Syrian delegation refused to discuss Assad and branded the opposition terrorists. One of the major sticking points has been the list of invitees.

In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of Iran -- a strong backer of Assad -- said he hadn't seen a final list of expected attendees. Also on hand in Davos on Thursday, Ahmet Davutoglu, prime minister of Syria's neighbour Turkey, said the "only criteria" was that "there should not be representation of terrorist groups."

Kerry said de Mistura probably would not send the invitations until Sunday.

"I think what will happen is that on Monday there will be some discussions but I would say by Tuesday or Wednesday people will be able to get there. We just see this as logistical," he told a small group of reporters in Davos.

Kerry, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Zurich on Wednesday and then briefly with Zarif in Davos, will be travelling to Saudi Arabia over the weekend for talks with Saudi officials on how to push forward the political process.

He said he believed current tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, inflamed by the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite cleric that sparked the sacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, would not affect the Syria talks. And he noted that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had on Wednesday apologized for the attack on the embassy.

"The supreme leader went to the extraordinary length of actually apologizing yesterday," Kerry said. "That is very significant and I hope people will recognize that in today's context, measured against where we've been, that's a huge step."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trump: Threats against Jewish centres a ’horrible’ reminder that more must be done to root out hate [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced recent threats against Jewish community centres as “horrible ... painful” and said more must be done “to root out hate and prejudice and evil.” Trump’s remarks, made at the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, marked the first time he directly addressed recent incidents of anti-Semitism. Source
  • Gay boxer Yusaf Mack TKOs homophobic troll

    World News Toronto Sun
    A gay boxer hammered a homophobic troll in a Philadelphia barber shop sending the loudmouth cowering to his corner. Openly gay slugger Yusaf Mack said he had been relentlessly pummelled online by Hector Echevarria. The comments were derogatory and homophobic. Source
  • Piano teacher arrested for burying hubby in farmyard

    World News Toronto Sun
    A British piano teacher has discovered that burying her husband in her backyard hits a sour note with Portuguese authorities. To say nothing of the dead man’s children. Louise Khan, 46, was arrested after burying her husband, Alyn Pennycook, at her remote farm in Guarda, Portugal, after he died of cancer, according to the Daily Mail. Source
  • The old despot’s club

    World News Toronto Sun
    So, happy birthday then, Robert Mugabe! The Zimbabwe dictator celebrated his 93rd birthday with a boffo bash in the impoverished country. Mugabe is among a handful of despots whose longevity is perplexing given their propensity for violence, thievery and human rights abuses. Source
  • Canada to give asylum to 1,200 primarily Yazidi refugees by year end

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA - The Trudeau government is poised to announce today that Canada has given safe haven to almost 400 Yazidi refugees and other survivors of Islamist extremists in the last four months and will take in about 800 more by the end of the year. Source
  • Indian teen believed to be dead wakes up in hearse

    World News Toronto Sun
    An Indian teen has risen “from the dead” after he woke up in a hearse on the way to his own funeral. According to published reports, Kumar Marewad, 17, “died” after a dog bite. Suffering from a high fever, he went to Dharwad hospital last week. Source
  • Canada isn't about to throw Mexico under the bus, foreign ministers say

    Canada News CBC News
    It might be too early to say where the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement will lead, but the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico already agree on one thing: Mexico will not be thrown under the bus. Source
  • Student's grading of ex-girlfriend's apology note goes viral

    World News Toronto Sun
    When Nick Lutz’s ex-girlfriend went old school in her post-breakup apology, he decided to school her on the prose. Lutz, a student at the University of Central Florida, did a bang-up, red-penned editing job on the four-page apology note he was sent by his ex, only identified as Elizabeth. Source
  • Canadians warn against Trump pressure to change strategy for fighting ISIS

    Canada News CBC News
    Two senior Canadian generals have defended the current strategy for defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which U.S. officials have put under review following scathing criticism by U.S. President Donald Trump. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was in Iraq this week after Trump gave the retired marine general until the end of the month to come up with a plan for speeding up the campaign. Source
  • Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe praises Donald Trump’s ’America First’ policy

    World News Toronto Sun
    HARARE, Zimbabwe — U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy has an admirer in Zimbabwe’s longtime president, who says the policy resonates with his own thinking. President Robert Mugabe, who turned 93 on Tuesday and is the world’s oldest head of state, spoke in a birthday interview with state-run media. Source