Kerry Heading Back to Europe for Syria, Mideast Talks

Friday, 18 Oct 2013 04:23 AM


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WASHINGTON — Indefatigable Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling back to Europe next week for talks on the war in Syria as well as the Middle East peace process, officials said Thursday.

The top U.S. diplomat, who only arrived back from a grueling two-week tour late Monday, will hit the road again for his 16th trip since he took office in February, heading to talks in Paris, London, and Rome from Monday to Thursday.

In the French capital, he will meet with members of the Arab Peace Initiative to touch base on progress in the relaunched peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

He will also hold talks with the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

On Tuesday, there will be a meeting of the core group of countries making up the Friends of Syria in London to review progress towards convening the Geneva peace conference, Psaki told reporters.

And in Rome, Kerry will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss ongoing final-status negotiations with the Palestinians," she added.

Kerry, who has led efforts with Russia to find a political resolution to the brutal war, earlier reiterated his belief that "there is no military solution, absolutely not" to the Syrian conflict now in its third year, in which some 110,000 people have died.

"There is only a continued rate of destruction and creation of a humanitarian catastrophe for everybody in the region if the fighting continues," he told National Public Radio in an interview.

"So we are trying to move the process forward. I'll have meetings next Tuesday in London with the support group of the opposition," he said. "We're working towards this Geneva conference, not that we know what the outcome is."

Meanwhile, a Syrian official said plans to bring the regime of President Bashar Assad and the opposition together at peace talks next month in Geneva where moving ahead.

Asked at a news conference in Moscow if the talks have been pushed back to late November or early December, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said they could take place "November 23-24."

The peace talks aim to map a path forward toward a political transition in Syria, and put in place a transitional government.

Psaki cautioned however that "no date is final until it is set and announced by the UN. We have said for a couple of weeks now that we were targeting mid-November, and that remains the case."

The Friends of Syria meeting would be to "discuss next steps, how to help the opposition, what are the steps that we can take to best prepare them and best prepare ourselves for a Geneva conference."

It remained unclear however, if any members of the fragmented Syrian opposition would be attending the London talks.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta confirmed after talks in Washington with President Barack Obama that he would be meeting with Kerry next week in Rome.

"Italy wants to promote the peace process. We believe it is just around the corner," he told reporters at a press conference in the Italian embassy.

© AFP 2014

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