Kerry Meets Europe Diplomats in Paris

Kerry Meets Europe Diplomats in Paris

PARIS (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for the resumption of Syria peace talks Monday in Geneva following a meeting with France's new foreign minister and other senior European diplomats.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault hosted Sunday's meeting in Paris which also included his British, German and Italian counterparts, and the European Union's foreign policy chief.

The meeting comes ahead of U.N.-sponsored indirect peace talks on Syria, which are scheduled to start Monday in Geneva amid a two-week partial cease-fire that has mostly held.

"We look forward to the resumption of talks in Geneva on Monday," Kerry said in a joint news conference with his counterparts.

The Syrian government will send a delegation to Geneva to take part in U.N.-sponsored indirect peace talks with the opposition, but has rejected the U.N. envoy's call for presidential elections to be held in the next 18 months.

Comments made yesterday by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem "clearly tried to disrupt the process" of negotiations, Kerry said. Al-Moallem said the Syrian government team won't stay more than 24 hours if the opposition doesn't show up.

Kerry insisted that both Iran and Russia — supporters of the Syrian regime — have adopted "an approach which dictates that there must be a political transition and that we must move towards a presidential election at some point of time."

The last round of indirect talks collapsed on Feb. 3 over a Russian-backed government offensive in Aleppo. The new round of negotiations comes amid a two-week partial cease-fire that has mostly held.

Additionally, diplomats have discussed a possible initiative to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, as France hopes to host an international conference on the issue in the coming months.

The chaotic situation in Libya, Yemen's civil war and the Ukraine peace process were also on the agenda in Paris.

(KA)