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US Secretary of State John Kerry (C). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi in Paris
Mr Kerry (C) and Mr Lavrov (R) met in Paris, along with Mr Brahimi (L)

The US and Russia have discussed the possibility of “localised ceasefires” in Syria ahead of peace talks to be held in Switzerland next week.

Russia also said Syria was considering opening humanitarian access to besieged rebel areas.

A prisoner exchange is also under consideration, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The two men are in Paris to discuss arrangements for the Geneva talks.

“We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire, maybe a localised ceasefire in Aleppo,” Mr Kerry told a news conference after talks with Mr Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN and Arab League envoy for Syria.

Both Mr Kerry and Lavrov said they hoped ceasefires could be in place before the talks, along with plans for prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

Mr Kerry said it was up to the Syrian government to show they were serious.

“I’m pleased to say that Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated that he’s had some conversations with the [Syrian] regime, that the regime may be prepared to open up a number of areas, specifically al-Gouta which we have been pushing for for some period of time, and it may be possible for convoys now to be able to access,” he said.

 

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UPDATE 2-U.S. and Russia say Syria aid access and local ceasefire possible

 

Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:31pm GMT

 

By Warren Strobel

Jan 13 (Reuters) – Syria‘s government and some rebels may be willing to permit humanitarian aid to flow, enforce local ceasefires and take other confidence-building measures in the nearly three-year-old civil war, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday.

Kerry said that he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire. Maybe a localized ceasefire, beginning with Aleppo,” Syria’s largest city. “And both of us have agreed to try to work to see if that could be achieved.”

Syrian rebels backed by Washington have agreed that, if the government commits to such a partial ceasefire, “they would live up to it”, Kerry said.

Given the history of failed attempts to end the war, which has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions, it remains far from clear that even a partial ceasefire can be achieved or, if it is, can hold.

It also seems unlikely to be honored by powerful militant islamist rebel factions, some of whom are at war with both Damascus and other rebel groups backed by the West and Gulf states.

But diplomats are trying to persuade the combatants to agree to a series of steps to improve the atmosphere for Syrian peace talks planned for Switzerland on Jan. 22.

Kerry spoke at a press conference in Paris with Lavrov and Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. Secretary General’s top Syria envoy.

Lavrov, whose government backs Assad, said the Syrian government had indicated it might provide access for humanitarian aid to reach besieged areas. He specifically cited the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, where 160,000 people have been largely trapped by fighting, according to the United Nations.

“We await similar steps by the opposition,” Lavrov said.

Kerry expressed some scepticism that Assad’s government would follow through.

“The proof will be in the pudding, as we say,” he said. “This news of a possibility is welcome.”

 

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