Secretary of State Kerry: US encouraging Russia-sponsored Astana peace talks
Kerry said a December 30 ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey had run into difficulties with numerous violations. Photograph: (AFP)
The US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the United States is encouraging Syria peace talks being prepared by Russia later this month in the Kazakhstan capital Astana.
The US hopes that the talks succeed in building peace in Syria, he said.
"We're encouraging a meeting in Astana. We hope that could produce a step forward," Kerry told reporters during his final news conference at the State Department.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on December 26 that Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had all agreed to hold the talks in Astana although no date has been set.
Kerry said he had talked to UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the objective remained "to get to Geneva where the real meat of the talks is going to take place."
But Kerry said a December 30 ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey had run into difficulties with numerous violations.
"The fighting is continuing, it`s difficult and the Assad regime seems to be playing the same card that it was playing previously," he said.
After several failed ceasefire attempts brokered by Kerry and Lavrov, the United States remained out of the latest Syrian talks. It is unclear whether the United States will attend the Astana talks.
Russia and Iran both back Assad, but Turkey, a NATO member, has long made clear it would prefer that Assad step down.
Ankara, however, has moderated its rhetoric on Assad in recent months and Lavrov said all three countries agreed the priority was to fight terrorism rather than to remove the Syrian leader.