BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei – A proposed peace conference on Syria will likely not happen until at least September, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday after meeting here with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Kerry spoke privately with Lavrov for nearly two hours outside an Asian security meeting that both diplomats are attending. He said in a statement that he concluded from the conversation that both the United States and Russia are “serious, more than serious, and committed” to ending the bloody civil conflict in Syria and working toward a negotiated peace.
He declined to take questions from reporters.
Lavrov put a somewhat different spin on the meeting, telling the Russian media that Kerry had recognized that “consolidation” of the disparate Syrian opposition is the most important goal to achieve before peace talks can take place.
Under an agreement reached exactly a year ago in Geneva and endorsed by international governments, including Russia and the United States, Syria’s opposition has proposed a meeting of negotiating teams whose members were chosen “by mutual consent” to establish a transitional government. The United States, which has said no end to the Syrian war is possible unless President Bashar Assad cedes power, has since made clear that the “mutual consent” clause ensured that Assad would not be involved.