US, Russia urge local ceasefire ahead of Syria talks

US, Russia urge local ceasefire ahead of Syria talks
Mon Jan 13, 2014 20:48:00

Moscow and Washington made a joint call Monday for Syria's government and militant groups to agree to ceasefires in parts of their battle-scarred country ahead of peace talks this month.

Meeting in Paris with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for the ceasefires to start ahead of the so-called Geneva II talks due to begin in Montreux on January 22.

"We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire, maybe a localized ceasefire beginning with Aleppo (in the north of Syria)," Kerry claimed.

"What can be done before the beginning of the conference should be done," Lavrov said. "We are going to try to send signals to all the Syrian sides on the need for the establishment of a localized ceasefire."

Washington and Moscow are hoping to build momentum ahead of the talks, which are seeking to revive efforts to hammer out a deal on a transitional government after a nearly three-year conflict that has killed 130,000 people.

Damascus's ambassador to Moscow said Monday that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem will also visit Russia ahead of the talks, with a diplomatic source saying the visit could take place on Thursday.

Kerry and Lavrov said they also discussed possible prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian corridors to bring aid to the millions affected by the conflict.

Lavrov said Syria government had indicated it was ready to allow access for humanitarian aid.

Also regarding Iran’s participation, Lavrov said there was an "absolutely apparent need" for the participation of both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Brahimi, for his part, also supported Iran's involvement. But Washington insisted that Tehran should agree with the idea of a transitional government before the start of Geneva II conference.

Kerry said Iran would be "welcome" if it agreed to the Geneva I deal, adding: "I invited Iran today to join the community of nations... and be a constructive partner for peace."

However Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Sunday that Tehran would only take part in the Syria talks "without any preconditions".