Kerry: U.S., Russia committed to conference to resolve Syria crisis

July 2, 2013 at 11:44 AM
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BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, July 2 (UPI) -- The United States and Russia are committed to a conference seeking a political resolution to the crisis in Syria, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.

Kerry spoke in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations security summit.

Russia is among few allies for Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime in the civil war that began in March 2011 and has claimed more than 93,000 lives. Russia has blocked efforts to sanction the Assad regime and has criticized those who advocate directly arming rebels.

However, Kerry said the United States and Russia agreed together they could make a difference.

"Our objective remains the same," Kerry said, noting the two superpowers recognize that a Syrian "military victory per se" won't keep Syria as a country and that "we have an obligation to try to work toward a peaceful resolution because a peaceful settlement is the best way to save the state of Syria and to minimize destruction."

Kerry said he and Lavrov "made progress" about the planned meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, agreeing it should be held "sooner rather than later." The second Geneva conference would build on a similar conference in Geneva a year ago that called for a transitional government with a mutually accepted neutral government and a full transition of power.

"What is clear to me coming out of this meeting and what we both wanted to really ascertain from each other is the level of seriousness and the capacity to be able to do this," Kerry said. "Whether the Assad regime is doing better or whether the opposition is doing better is frankly not determinative of that outcome because the outcome requires a transition government. And that's why it is valuable to try to get to Geneva."

Kerry said their discussion about Edward Snowden, who admitted leaking information about the National Security Agency cellphone and Internet monitoring programs and has holed up in the transit area of the Moscow airport since fleeing Hong Kong in mid-June, was limited because Snowden was not in Lavrov's "portfolio."

"So it is fair to say that we didn't discuss any substantive progress, but I certainly raised, from our point of view, how it fits within the context of our relationship," Kerry said.

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