US, Russia Discuss Syria Ceasefires; Assad Rolls Eyes

And Syrian opposition questions whether to attend peace talks
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2014 4:01 PM CST
US, Russia Discuss Syria Ceasefires; Assad Rolls Eyes
John Kerry with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, right, attend a joint news conference in Paris, France, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

The US and Russia are discussing the notion of "localized ceasefires" in Syria as peace talks loom next week in Switzerland—offering the first chance for opposing sides to sit down face-to-face, the AP reports. John Kerry, meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Paris, said ceasefires in Aleppo and Damascus are under consideration, as are prisoner swaps and the creation of humanitarian corridors, reports the BBC. But President Assad's government scoffed at the Paris talks, saying they were "closer to illusions than reality." In other details:

  • Lavrov questioned whether the West would stand firm amid vicious Syrian fighting. "There are many terrorists in Syria and they are becoming more numerous," Lavrov said. "We do not want a cease-fire which would be used by terrorist groups."
  • Kerry also met with Ahmad al-Jarba, president of the US-backed Syrian opposition coalition. The coalition has said that long, fruitless peace talks would only undermine its influence, the New York Times reports. The group will decide by Friday whether to attend. (Assad's government says it will send a delegation.)
  • The UN, Russia, and the US openly disagree about whether Iran should be invited. The UN and Russia are in favor, and the US opposed, saying Iran can't attend without agreeing to the purpose of the talks: creating a transitional body that would oversee Syria if Assad steps down.
In other news, see how Syrian rebels may need a judge to stem infighting and the FBI thinks Americans are training for terror in Syria. (Read more Syrian uprising stories.)

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