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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 Mondays 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 Lavrovs 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 years 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

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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