Kerry and Lavrov discuss possible ceasefire in Syria
US secretary of state attends talks in Paris with Russian counterpart and UN envoy to Syria
Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad (front 2nd left) attends a religious ceremony on the occasion the Prophet Muhamad’s birthday at al-Hamd mosque in Damascus on January 12th, 2014. Photograph: Sana/Reuters
US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the possibility of ceasefires in parts of Syria, Mr Kerry said today after talks in Paris.
Mr Lavrov said the two also discussed a possible willingness by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to open aid corridors. “We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire. Maybe a localised ceasefire in Aleppo,” Mr
Mr Kerry told a news conference after talks with Mr Lavrov and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi in Paris.
Mr Lavrov, whose government backs Assad, said Damascus had indicated it might provide access for humanitarian aid to besieged areas. He specifically cited the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, where 160,000 people have been largely trapped by fighting, according to the United Nations.
“We await similar steps by the opposition,” Mr Lavrov said. The United States is pushing for a series of confidence-building measures in the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people, in advance of a planned peace conference in Switzerland on January 22nd.
Meanwhile, at least 19 people have been killed in a mortar attack in the central Syrian city of Homs, state media and anti-government activists said.
The official Sana news agency said the rounds slammed into the pro-government Ghouta and Karm al-Shami districts of Homs.
It blamed “terrorists” for the attack, employing the term the government uses to describe those trying to topple the Assad regime.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group also reported the mortar attack.
Syrian rebels often fire mortar rounds into pro-government areas of cities and towns, while Assad’s forces indiscriminately strike rebel-held areas with artillery, air strikes and surface-to-surface missiles.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 120,000 since the crisis began in March 2011.