Following a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Zurich on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters that he believed Syrian peace talks must begin as scheduled next week.
During his statement, Lavrov said that both the United States and Russia are committed to beginning the peace talks as soon as possible. The talks are currently scheduled to begin next week in Geneva. However, the possibility of a delayed start remains because of failure to agree on a list of participants. Due to the highly fractured nature of various military groups in Syria, contention has arisen as to what groups should be allowed representation in the peace talks and which should be classed as terrorist groups, a designation that automatically bars participation.
Another point of contention between the countries organizing the Syrian peace talks is the question of whether or not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be forced to automatically relinquish power, or if he will be allowed to participate as a candidate in free elections. The United States has pushed for his removal from power, while Russia has maintained that that is a decision that should be made in constitutional elections in Syria.
Following the three hour meeting in Zurich, Kerry and Lavrov traveled to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum. It is not yet known precisely when the final list of participants in the Syrian peace talks will be announced. Unless delayed, the talks are set to begin on Monday, January 25th.
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