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Kerry Says Syria Peace Talks Expected in June

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he expects Syria's government and the main opposition coalition to attend a peace conference in early June, with the goal of ending their two-year conflict.

Speaking on a visit to Stockholm, Kerry said Tuesday that the Syrian government has given the names of potential negotiators to Russia, a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and the United States agreed last week to try to arrange the peace talks despite their sharp disagreements about whether Mr. Assad should have a role in Syria's future. Washington has long insisted that Mr. Assad should step down for leading a deadly crackdown on dissent.



Kerry said diplomacy is under way to try to stage the conference, whose location has not been confirmed. Jordanian officials said Western and Arab nations opposing Mr. Assad will hold a "Friends of Syria" meeting in Amman next week to discuss the process.

The top U.S. diplomat also warned Mr. Assad not to boycott the talks, saying that would be a "miscalculation" that would lead to the opposition receiving "additional support" from its allies.

Earlier Tuesday, Syrian state media quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying the government needs more details before making a decision on whether to participate in the conference.

He also said Syria will not take part in any dialogue that infringes on its sovereignty and insisted that Mr. Assad's fate is a matter only for the Syrian people to decide at the ballot box.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said it is extremely important for all parties to avoid actions that could aggravate the situation in Syria. He made the comment after talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday in the Russian resort of Sochi.

Prior to the talks, Mr. Netanyahu said he wants to work with Russia to make the Middle East more stable and secure.

Israel and the United States have expressed concern about potential Russian sales of advanced anti-aircraft weapons to Syria, which would complicate potential Israeli or Western air strikes against President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week his government is completing arms sales to Syria under existing contracts, but he did not say if advanced S-300 missile batteries were included.

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