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Kerry Plans Talks in New York With Syrian Opposition

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to meet tomorrow in New York with leaders of the Syrian opposition, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

The group, headed by the new president of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, is scheduled to hold informal discussions on July 26 with diplomats representing United Nations Security Council members.

Kerry is due at the UN tomorrow to preside over Security Council discussions about peace efforts in eastern Congo.

While in New York, Kerry is scheduled to meet with the Syrians to convey the U.S. commitment to helping strengthen the opposition and to discuss “not only the situation on the ground but the path forward toward a political solution.” Psaki told reporters at the State Department today.

Al-Jarba’s delegation includes Syrian dissident Michel Kilo, a Christian who spent six years in jail for opposing the regime; Burhan Ghalioun, the former leader of the opposition Syrian National Council; and Najib Ghadbian, the Syrian Coalition’s special representative to the UN, according to a statement from the Syrian Coalition’s UN Office.

Jarba is a Sunni Muslim who was imprisoned during the 1990s for his opposition to then-President Hafez al-Assad, the father of current President Bashar al-Assad. He was arrested again in March 2011, at the start of the current uprising, according to information from the National Coalition.

The informal meeting with Security Council members “is expected to focus on the dire humanitarian circumstances in Syria and the region, and the urgent need for international action to bring an end to the conflict and support Syria’s democratic transition,” according to the statement.

Kerry discussed efforts to convene Syrian peace talks during a phone call today with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Psaki said. They plan to talk about Syria further within a few days, she said.

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