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

  • U.S. Navy filing homicide charges against ship commanders over two 2017 collisions

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Five officers involved in two U.S. Navy ship collisions last year that killed a total of 17 sailors are being charged with negligent homicide, the Navy said Tuesday. A Navy spokesman, Capt. Source
  • Mormon church appoints 93-year-old ex-surgeon as president

    World News CTV News
    SALT LAKE CITY -- The 93-year-old former heart surgeon named Tuesday as the new president of the Mormon Church signalled his intention to make few changes in policy regarding the role of women and LGBT issues -- two topics that the faith has grappled with in recent years. Source
  • Michelle Obama adds 2nd Vancouver date to speaking tour

    Canada News CBC News
    Michelle Obama — lawyer, writer, former University of Chicago associate dean and former U.S. first lady — has added a second Vancouver engagement to her speaking tour. The second event, announced by the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade Tuesday, will take place on the afternoon of Feb. Source
  • Republican official accused of 'amnesia' on Trump vulgarity

    World News CTV News
    WARNING: This story contains language some readers may find offensive WASHINGTON -- Republicans struggled to get their stories straight Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump's Homeland Security secretary became the latest GOP official to offer an inconclusive version of a meeting in which Trump is said to have used vulgar remarks that have been criticized as racist. Source
  • 'What would you do?' Good Samaritan who saved woman from cold hopes to set example

    Canada News CBC News
    Tuesday morning was shaping up like any other for Penny Tasco, as she listened to the weather forecast before jumping in the shower. Hearing it was –27 with the windchill and that snow was on the way, Tasco peeked outside her home on Paul Anka Drive around 6:15 a.m. Source
  • N.S. garage rebuilds vintage truck for man with terminal cancer

    Canada News CTV News
    A garage in Nova Scotia is helping a man from the Northwest Territories with terminal brain cancer realize his dream of seeing his 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck completely rebuilt as a gift for his 21-year-old son. Source
  • Chelsea Manning's U.S. Senate bid could upend Maryland race

    World News CTV News
    BALTIMORE -- Chelsea Manning's high-profile bid for the U.S. Senate threatens to upend the 2018 Maryland Democratic primary. The former U.S. Army private convicted of leaking over 700,000 classified documents has an uphill battle to defeat Sen. Source
  • Alberta monitors, makes contingency plans on road clearing in U.K. firm bankruptcy

    Canada News CTV News
    EDMONTON -- Alberta's transportation minister says they are making contingency plans to clear and maintain roads as they monitor the financial fallout of a multinational United Kingdom construction company. Brian Mason says for now they believe the bankruptcy of Carillion PLC won't affect the operations of its Canadian subsidiary. Source
  • 'Failure was not an option,' says Georgia firefighter who caught girl dropped from blazing building

    World News CBC News
    more stories from this episode'Failure was not an option,' says Georgia firefighter who caught girl dropped from blazing buildingA rare fly stands between a U.S. billionaire and his proposed Scottish golf course'Final act of the cover up': Dublin councillor blasts plan to turn last Magdalene laundry into a hotelFull Episode Source
  • Halifax considers banning plastic shopping bags

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- As the fight against the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag ratchets up around the world, Atlantic Canada's biggest municipality is looking to join the growing ranks of cities and countries banning, restricting or taxing single-use plastic bags. Source