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

  • In shadow of Mosul fight, Iran establishes Nineveh foothold

    World News CTV News
    BAGHDAD -- While Iraq's conventional military has been slowly clearing the Islamic State group from inside Mosul's complex urban terrain, Iraq's Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary forces have been working their way through less glamorous territory: vast deserts west and south of the city that run along and across Iraq's border with Syria. Source
  • Man faces murder charge after woman's body found near Parry Sound, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    CARLING TOWNSHIP, Ont. - Police say a man is facing a murder charge after the body of a 39-year-old woman was found northwest of Parry Sound, Ont. Provincial police say the body of Nancy McGrath was found on Saturday night in a rural area of Carling Township, Ont. Source
  • Pro-life protests banned outside New Brunswick hospital

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    BATHURST, N.B. — As provinces across Canada move to establish protest-free “buffer zones” around abortion providers, a judge has banned anti-abortion activists from demonstrating outside a hospital in northern New Brunswick. Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Reginald Leger granted a permanent injunction against protesters outside the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst. Source
  • Wind, storms leave 11 dead and 70 hurt in Moscow

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Thunderstorms and strong winds buffeted Moscow and its surrounding areas on Monday, killing 11 people and injuring dozens, Russian officials said. Most of the fatalities were caused by falling trees. Another 70 people were injured, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Source
  • Zookeeper killed in 'freak accident' involving a tiger at UK zoo

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Police said a tiger killed a female zookeeper Monday at a zoo 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of London. “A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female zookeeper died at the scene,” Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement. Source
  • Opponents grill Ont. Liberals over $200,000 rubber duck

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - An Ontario government grant of about $120,000 that is going toward a giant rubber duck for Canada 150 celebrations is ruffling some feathers. The 18.6 metre, 13,600-kilogram yellow duck is being brought to Toronto by the Redpath Waterfront Festival, reportedly at a total cost of $200,000, combining other funding. Source
  • Late sponsorship of Takuma Sato pays off for mortgage broker with Indy 500 win

    World News CBC News
    When Takuma Sato took home the checkered flag at the Indy 500 on Sunday, the Japanese race car driver wasn't the only big winner. One of the main sponsors of his car, Indiana-based lender Ruoff Home Mortgage, only decided to put financial support behind Sato's Andretti Racing Team early last week. Source
  • Female teacher filmed raunchy hijinks with teen: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Mississippi teacher was so turned on by her teen lover she allegedly filmed the hormone-charged hijinks. Cops say biology teacher Amber Turnage, 39, was the alleged star of homemade sex movies that leaked online that showed her having intercourse and oral sex with the boy, 17. Source
  • Tiger kills zookeeper in eastern England

    World News CBC News
    Police in southeastern England say a zookeeper has been killed in an incident involving a tiger. Cambridgeshire Police are not releasing other details about the incident Monday at Hamerton Zoo, which is 130 kilometres north of London. Source
  • Okanagan Lake flooding concerns on the rise

    Canada News CTV News
    KELOWNA, B.C. -- The water level for B.C.'s Okanagan Lake has crept up another 1.7 centimetres since Sunday, adding to flooding concerns across the Central Okanagan Regional District. Environment Canada reports Okanagan Lake has reached 343.08 metres, eight centimetres above historic flood levels dating back to 1948. Source