Kerry Expresses Support for U.N., Russian Peace Efforts in Syria

This article was originally published on the Voice of America website on January 14.

.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed support for U.N. efforts to halt the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, as well as for Russia’s bid to restart peace talks for the war-torn nation.

Kerry spoke Wednesday alongside the U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura after the two met in Geneva.

The secretary said de Mistura’s plan to freeze fighting in Aleppo through a series of locally negotiated truces to allow in humanitarian aid is part of a “very complicated but very important effort” to make progress in Syria.

De Mistura is due to return to Damascus the week of January 19. He met in November with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who called the proposal something “worth studying.”

The U.N. envoy said January 14 that Aleppo is an “iconic example” of how the violence could end and bring hope to Syrians who are tired of nearly four years of conflict.

Russia has proposed hosting peace talks at the end of January between Assad’s government and opposition groups who are trying to push him from power. Syria’s Foreign Ministry has expressed a willingness to participate, but bringing together negotiations with the multiple opposition groups remains a challenge.

Kerry said he hopes “the Russian efforts could be helpful.”

Two rounds of U.N.-brokered peace talks held a year ago ended with little progress.

The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 as peaceful protests, but spun into a civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people. The U.N. says there are now 3.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. The fighting has displaced another 6.5 million people within Syria.

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