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You are here: GBC Business News Kerry, Lavrov Meeting as Syria Talks in Question

Kerry, Lavrov Meeting as Syria Talks in Question


2016-01-20 11:30

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Wednesday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Zurich, Switzerland as part of a trip to Europe, the Middle East and Asia for talks on issues including the multinational effort to bring political stability to Syria and North Korea's recent nuclear test.

The bilateral talks come at a critical time as plans to launch peace talks on a political transition in Syria on January 25 appear to be in jeopardy.

The United States and Russia are part of the International Syria Support Group, which is backing the United Nations-led effort to bring the Syrian government and opposition together for negotiations. The two countries, however, are at odds over support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a panel "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action" during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 19, 2016.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a panel "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action" during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 19, 2016.

A U.N. spokesman said Monday the world body could not send out invitations for the talks until there was agreement on which opposition representatives should attend. Earlier, the Syrian government said it wanted to see an opposition list before the talks.

According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Friday there could be more clarity on the date for intra-Syrian talks following the meeting between Kerry and Lavrov.

Kerry next goes to Davos, Switzerland, where more than 40 heads of state and government are expected to attend the World Economic Forum.

Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Ash Carter will also attend the annual gathering that pairs governments with executives from some of the world’s leading companies.

Four economic focal points

A senior State Department official says the four economic focal points for Kerry in Davos will be the importance of tackling corruption, clean energy initiatives, expanding Internet connectivity, and the environment.

Carter told reporters traveling with him that he wanted to discuss cooperation between the Pentagon and the "innovative industry" and would also be holding talks with leaders on the campaign against Islamic State.

WATCH: VOA's Pamela Dockins reports on Kerry's travels

Focus of Kerry's Trip: Syria, North Korea, Global Economyi
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Pamela Dockins
January 19, 2016 6:33 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to Europe, the Middle East and Asia for talks on issues including the multinational effort to bring political stability to Syria and North Korea’s recent nuclear test. VOA State Department Correspondent Pamela Dockins reports the first stop Wednesday will be to Switzerland, where more than 40 heads of state and government are expected to attend the World Economic Forum.

The annual World Economic Forum serves a “benchmark exercise” for officials on issues that will be of key importance for the rest of the year, said John McArthur, a global economy analyst with the Brookings Institution.

Gulf leaders

From Switzerland, Kerry travels to Riyadh for talks with Saudi officials and foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The visit comes days after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries say could lead to Iran destabilizing the region.

A U.S. effort has been under way to keep tensions between U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia and Iran from spilling over into other issues of regional concern, such as unrest in Yemen.

From Riyadh, Kerry travels to Laos and Cambodia for talks to set the stage for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in February that will be hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.
 
The White House said the gathering would “further advance the (Obama) administration’s rebalance to Asia and the Pacific.”
 
Kerry’s final stop, China, comes amid heightened concerns about North Korea’s test of what Pyongyang said was a nuclear device, and the possible response from the international community.

FILE - People look at a map of the border area between North and South Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 11, 2016.
FILE - People look at a map of the border area between North and South Koreas at the Imjingak Pavilion near the border village of Panmunjom, which has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 11, 2016.

Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken discussed North Korea’s provocation with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts last week in Tokyo.

“All parties affirmed our mutual interest in security, a robust international response to uphold a rules-based order,” the State Department said Monday following the trip.

Analysts say China is key to an effort to convince North Korea to cooperate with the international community.

“North Korea gets something like 80 percent of its food and fuel from China and also China is North Korea’s closest friend, for what it’s worth, in the international community,” said Council on Foreign Relations analyst Scott Snyder.

Snyder added that China might be reluctant to support additional U.N. Security Council penalties against North Korea because of concern further sanctions against Pyongyang could increase regional instability.

Chris Hannas in Washington contributed to this report.
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