US Gets Going on Arranging Syrian Peace Conference


JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — Secretary of State John Kerry got the ball rolling Wednesday on a joint Washington-Moscow plan to hold an international conference that might lead to an end of hostilities in Syria.

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov announced the proposal Tuesday with the goal to get representatives from both the Syrian government and opposition forces to sit at the same table to hash out a deal after more than two years of war and tens of thousands of deaths.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford went to Istanbul to speak with officials from the main opposition group, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, to convince them to attend the conference, tentatively scheduled for sometime within the next month.

While representatives from the group appeared open to the plan, they also warned that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has promised cooperation before, only to back out at the last minute — a move that generally led to an escalation of violence in Syria.

This new U.S.-Russia effort could also compel U.N. peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to stay on.

Brahimi, who was appointed by the United Nations and Arab League, has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in finding a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and has threatened to resign his post.

However, he said that the new initiative is “the first hopeful news concerning that unhappy country in a very long time.”

Damascus has been mum, with its official news agency, SANA, only reporting the U.S.-Russia plan with the headline: “Lavrov, Kerry: Negotiations Are Vital Tool to Reach Settlement.”

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