World News

Kerry Says Syria Peace Talks Expected in June

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 during a visit to Stockholm, Kerry said Tuesday that Russia has informed him that the Syrian government has presented names of potential negotiators. Moscow is a longtime ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The top U.S. diplomat said opposition members of the Western-backed Syrian National Coalition also plan to participate in the conference.

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 intensive 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.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius acknowledged that diplomatic efforts to bring Syria's warring parties together are "very difficult." He said the two sides have to agree on negotiators who do not have "blood on their hands" from the conflict, which has killed more than 80,000 people.

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.

Mr. Netanyahu said he and Mr. Putin are trying to find ways to strengthen stability and security in the Middle East by explaining their positions to each other "directly" and "openly."

Israel and the United States have expressed concern about planned Russian sales of advanced anti-aircraft weapons to Syria. Such weapons would complicate potential Israeli or Western air strikes against President 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.

In another development, a gruesome YouTube video apparently showing a rebel mutilating the body of a Syrian solder has drawn condemnation from human rights and Syrian opposition groups.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the video posted on Sunday shows the commander of a Syrian rebel brigade, Abu Sakkar, cutting out and biting the heart of the dead soldier. The rebel also hurls sectarian insults against Alawites, the minority Syrian sect of President Assad.

Human Rights Watch said it is not clear if the brigade operates within the command structure of Syria's main rebel coalition, the Free Syrian Army.

But, it called on the Free Syrian Army and its exiled political wing, the Syrian National Coalition, to hold those responsible for war crimes accountable and prevent such abuses by anyone under their command.

The Syrian National Coalition said it "strongly condemns this act - if it is revealed to be true." The group said the mutilation "contradicts the morals of the Syrian people" and the "values" of the Free Syrian Army. It promised to eventually try the culprit in front of an "honest and fair judiciary."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs