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Lavrov and Kerry Meet Ahead of Syrian Peace Conference

Published: January 15, 2014 (Issue # 1793)



  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lightens the mood by gifting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov two Idaho potatoes.
    Photo: Pablo Martiniez Monsivais / AP

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Paris on Monday to discuss the long-awaited Syrian peace conference, which is scheduled for next week in Switzerland but still does not have the confirmed participation of Syrian opposition groups.

Topics such as the exchange of captives, humanitarian aid and a ceasefire will also be discussed, Lavrov said, adding that Russia, the U.S. and the United Nations had urged the Syrian government and opposition to agree on a ceasefire and exchanging captives by the beginning of the peace talks.

Russia and the U.S. have sparred over how to seek a resolution to the civil war in Syria, but Lavrov and Kerry have managed to reach agreement on certain steps toward peace, including convincing the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles and to participate in the planned talks with the opposition.

In recent months, the two countries’ positions on the situation in Syria also seem to have grown closer, with the U.S. becoming more concerned about extremist groups operating in the country, a trend that Russia has frequently spoken out about. In December, the U.S. and Britain suspended delivery of some units of humanitarian aid to rebels, worrying that they could be commandeered by extremist groups linked to al-Qaida.

At Monday’s meeting, Kerry said Russia and the U.S. had common views on many issues relating to Syria, including the fact that they both have insisted on seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Emphasizing the chummy personal relationship Kerry and Lavrov have developed, Kerry opened the meeting by handing Lavrov a gift of two Idaho potatoes, to Lavrov’s apparent delight. The Russian side reciprocated with a present of a pink fur cap to the U.S. delegation.

The peace talks, known as the Geneva II conference and first scheduled to take place last year, are now set for Jan. 22. The conference will bring together the Syrian government and the opposition, as well as delegations from some 30 states, the UN, the European Union, the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“We expressed our concerns and urged the Syria National Coalition to determine its position as soon as possible and to cooperate with other opposition groups in order to make the opposition delegation as representative as is required by last year’s Geneva Communique,” Lavrov said after meeting with Kerry and UN and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, in Paris, Interfax reported.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, July 12


Russian culture will be the focus of today’s Neva Rus Festival. Starting at noon, St. Petersburg’s 300th Anniversary Park will be a venue for a round-dance master class, hand-to-hand fighting, folk music concerts and a traditional handicraft fair.



Visit today’s ShubaShorti urban flea market, where everyone can buy, exchange or just have for free various vintage knick-knackery, clothes and books. The event starts at noon at the Uppsala Circus at 44 Sverdlovskaya Naberezhnaya.



The 3rd International Opera for All Festival opens this evening with a free performance on Cathedral Square in the Peter and Paul fortress at 7 p.m.



The Tsunami Picnic Car Festival will allow visitors to see hundreds of exclusive cars outdoors and to watch races featuring professional drivers. The event will take place in the town of Sestroretsk at noon.


Coffee lovers will be able to try hundreds of different kinds of coffee and enjoy baristas’ shows as well as live music during Coffee Day in the Cultural Space Salon at 11 Bolshoi Kazachy pereulok.



Sunday, July 13


Starcon, a festival dedicated to science fiction and innovation, plans to lure visitors by exposing them to the best video games and comics as well as holding lectures on new and exciting technologies. The event will take place at Lenexpo, 103 Bolshoi prospect on Vasilievsky Island, at noon. The entrance fee is 850 rubles ($23).



Monday, July 14


More than 30 young artists will present their work including sculptures, painted skateboards and graffiti, during Boards & Paint, which will run through Aug. 3 at Loft Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, July 15


Be amazed by 50 life-sized moving dinosaur models at the Dinosaurs Show, the world’s largest such exhibition, which will be at Lenexpo on Vasilievsky Island until Sept. 21.



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