Kerry And Lavrov Turn Focus To Setting Up Peace Conference

The US and Russia continue talks on the proposed transfer of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal to UN control.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The push for an international peace conference on Syria may be back on. The United States and Russia have been in on-and-off negotiations over such a conference for months. They had foundered and after an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, the U.S. was at the brink of military action.

Then, there was the Russian proposal to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Now they're trying to hammer out that deal. Diplomats and experts from both sides have been meeting for two days in Geneva. NPR's Michele Kelemen brings us up-to-date on the latest diplomacy.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: While their aides spent the day working through details on how to bring Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles under international control, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked about another broader diplomatic track. Kerry says he and Lavrov will try to pick a date soon for a long overdue peace conference on Syria.

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: Much of which will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons.

KELEMEN: Russia is counting on the U.S. to persuade the rebels in Syria to come to the negotiating table. Lavrov says this will be discussed again later this month.

SERGEI LAVROV: We agreed to meet in New York in the margins of the General Assembly and see where we are and what the Syrian parties think about it and do about it.

KELEMEN: Syrian opposition, though, is more skeptical than ever about peace talks and about the diplomatic effort to resolve the chemical weapons issue. The stakes are high, says former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who dropped by to see both Kerry and Lavrov during a busy day of diplomacy.

KOFI ANNAN: I know Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov are working extremely hard to find a solution and I hope the solution that they get will deal not only with the chemical issue, but will come back to a broader issue of political settlement which will have positive impact on the humanitarian situation.

KELEMEN: Annan had been a special envoy on Syria, but facing a divided United Nations Security Council, he never managed to pull off peace talks. His successor on that job, Lakhdar Brahimi, is also appealing to Lavrov and Kerry to overcome differences to help him resolve a conflict that has dragged on for two and half years and forced more than 6 million Syrians from their homes. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Geneva.

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