US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday that he has discussed the possibility of enforcing local ceasefires in Syria with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The question of whether or not Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad is willing to permit the flow of humanitarian aid was also on the agenda.
“We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire,” said Kerry in a joint press conference with Lavrov in Paris, “maybe a localised ceasefire, beginning with Aleppo.”
The Russian foreign minister confirmed that he, Kerry and Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Secretary General’s top envoy to Syria, had had such a discussion. He noted that the Syrian government agreed to permit the flow of humanitarian aid to areas besieged by militant groups starting from Monday.
Kerry pointed out that the Syrian opposition expressed its willingness to abide by a partial ceasefire that begins with Aleppo if the regime also sticks to it. He and Lavrov added that an exchange of prisoners between the two sides might be possible.
At the same time, Lavrov stressed that extremists must not be allowed to expand their activity in Syria: “We do not want a ceasefire which would be used by a terrorist group, because that would be against the interests of everyone.”
Eleven states have held discussions on the final details of the Geneva 2 international conference, which is set to convene on 22 January. Although time is running out, it is still unclear who will be in the delegation that will represent the Syrian Opposition at the conference. During a meeting held on Sunday in Paris, the so-called Friends of Syria group, made up of Western and Gulf Arab governments, failed to convince the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces to reverse its decision not to attend Geneva 2.
The head of the coalition, Ahmad Al-Jarba, met Lavrov in Paris, where the foreign minister emphasized Moscow’s keenness on the future of the Syrian people. In a press conference with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Al-Jarab said that the most important aspect of the meeting was that everyone agrees that “Assad has no future in Syria”.