Geneva, Sept. 13: Secretary of state John Kerry said today that talks with his Russian counterpart on setting up a peace conference on Syria would continue in New York later this month.
But prospects for peace talks, he said, would depend heavily on the outcome of efforts to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control as part of a plan to eliminate them. Kerry was speaking after meeting this morning at the Palais des Nations, the UN office here, with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy on the Syria issue.
“President Obama is deeply committed to a negotiated solution with respect to Syria,” Kerry told a joint news conference at which he said the three diplomats would continue their discussions around September 28 in New York. “We both agreed to do that homework and meet again in New York around the time of the UN General Assembly in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference, much of which will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next days on the subject of the chemical weapons,” Kerry said.
It was not clear if their Geneva meetings would continue into tomorrow.
Soon after Kerry spoke, the state department announced that he would also be travelling to Jerusalem on Sunday to meet Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister.
Kerry met recently in London with Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, and one purpose of his meeting in Israel is to discuss West Asia peace talks.
But Jen Psaki, the spokesman for the state department, said the meeting with Netanyahu would also focus on developments in Syria.
Kerry has argued strongly in recent weeks that it was necessary to carry out a military strike in Syria after the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus to reinforce the message to Iran that the Obama administration would not allow the Iranians to field a nuclear device and was retaining a military option as a last resort.
Obama’s decision to defer military action, however, has stirred concern in Israel that the credibility of the American policy toward Iran is being eroded.
Kerry was not the only one here who spoke publicly today about the possibility of holding peace talks on Syria.
Sitting on a dais with Kerry, Lavrov hailed the effort of the Russian President, Vladimir V. Putin, to persuade President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to join the treaty banning chemical arms, and stressed the need to resume peace talks in Geneva.
Lavrov said it was “very unfortunate that for a long time the Geneva communiqué was basically abandoned”, referring to a 2012 document that outlined basic terms for the peace talks. Despite the public facade of unity, however, the US and Russia have been sharply divided over how to organise a political settlement and who should attend a peace conference.