Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

US Envoy John Kerry Meets Europe's Top Diplomats in Paris

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

US Envoy John Kerry Meets Europe's Top Diplomats in Paris

Article excerpt

PARIS - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for the resumption of Syria peace talks today in Geneva following a meeting with France's new foreign minister and other senior European diplomats. Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hosted Sunday's meeting in Paris which also included his British, German and Italian counterparts, and the European Union's foreign policy chief.

The meeting comes ahead of U.N.-sponsored indirect peace talks on Syria, which are scheduled to start today in Geneva amid a partial cease-fire that came into force two weeks ago and has mostly held.

"We look forward to the resumption of talks in Geneva on Monday, Kerry said in a joint news conference with his counterparts.

Fighting has continued inside Syria but to a lesser degree than in February. Government forces advanced on the ancient city of Palmyra, which is held by the Islamic State group, while continuing to clash with jihadists and rebels in other parts of the country Sunday.

In the northern part of the country, factions arrayed against the government turned against one another in an effort to assert their dominance during the cease-fire. Al-Qaeda militants swept through a rebel-held town in northern Syria, arresting U.S.-backed fighters and looting weapons stores belonging to the Free Syrian Army.

Delegations from the Syrian government and opposition, represented in part by the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee, arrived in Geneva Sunday, but with conflicting visions for the talks.

HNC spokesman Salem Mislet said the opposition would discuss the establishment of a transitional governing body in which Syrian President Bashar Assad and his associates would have no role.

"The Syrian people have submitted half a million martyrs not to keep Assad in power for a longer period but in order to terminate his presence and to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and also to put an end to the terrorism that targeted the region, he said.

But Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallam said Saturday any talk of removing Assad during the transitional period was "a red line, adding that the government rejected the U. …

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