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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

Sunday, Jan. 25


Get out your running shoes for the 46th International Road of Life Marathon. Dedicated to the end of the blockade, three runs are offered — 5, 21 and 42 kilometer runs — starting in different places outside the city. Busses leave from 13/1 Arsenalnaya Naberezhny at 8 a.m. but check complete details and registration fees on www.newrunners.ru/race/doroga-zhizni-2015



If you are planning a wedding, head over to the Azimut Hotel, 43/1 Lermontovsky Prospekt from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day includes live music, free dance classes and vendors selling wedding dresses, accessories, cakes and services to help make your special day perfect. Admission is free.



Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.







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