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Kerry, Lavrov Committed to Organizing Syria Peace Talks

Kerry, Lavrov Committed to Organizing Syria Peace Talks
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Kerry, Lavrov Committed to Organizing Syria Peace Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov say they are committed to organizing talks on a transitional government to end Syria's civil war. But there remain differences over who might take part in those talks. The two ministers met in Paris Monday evening.

Kerry says Washington and Moscow are determined to follow through on a Syrian peace plan proposal outlined last year in Geneva.

"Both of us, Russia and the United States, are deeply committed, remain committed to trying to implement the Geneva One principles which require a transitional government by mutual consent that has full executive authority in order to allow the people of Syria to decide the future of Syria," said Kerry.

Kerry and Lavrov met at a Paris hotel ahead of a working dinner with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Kerry says they talked about the dates for a second Geneva peace conference that would bring together representatives of the government and its opponents.

They also discussed the humanitarian situation and allegations by both sides that their opponents are using chemical weapons.

"And both of us expressed our mutual concerns about any potential use of chemical weapons and the need to really get the evidence and ascertain what has happened in that regard. Both Russia and the United States, if it were being used, would object to that very, very strongly," said Kerry.

Lavrov says Moscow and Washington understand the urgency of the Syrian crisis.

"The situation is not getting better and we all want to do everything in our efforts to stop the bloodshed and the sufferings of the Syrian people," said Lavrov.

Russia is backing embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while the United States supports the opposition. Lavrov says Moscow and Washington working together have considerable influence.

"When the United States and the Russian Federation make this kind of initiative, the chances for success are bigger. And we will do everything in our power to use those chances to make them realities," he said.

But there remain differences over who should take part in these talks, with Lavrov pushing for the inclusion of Iran, another key backer of the Assad military.

"The Geneva One participants, I think, have been accepted as invitees. And we believe that this circle could be expanded to include all key outside players who have influence on the situation on the ground," he said.

The United States has previously objected to Iran's involvement, but says the final list of participants is still being worked out with the United Nations.

Kerry and Lavrov agreed that their deputies will continue to meet in the coming days to work through how a Syrian peace conference could best be prepared for success.