Kerry Says Syria Talks With Russia Could Resume on Oct. 30

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  • Iran may eventually be asked to join Syria talks: Kerry
  • Saudi minister says no timetable set for Assad departure

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said talks with his Russian, Turkish and Saudi Arabian counterparts advanced new ideas for ending the Syrian conflict and that top diplomats will reconvene as early as next Friday.

Participation at the next meeting may include additional Middle Eastern and European countries, Kerry told reporters following all-day talks on Friday in Vienna. Iran may be asked to join the negotiations eventually but no decision has yet been reached, he said.

“Multilateral diplomacy requires maximizing people who could have a positive impact,” Kerry said. “We feel a sense of urgency -- every day that goes by, there are more innocent people killed, more refugees, more dislocation.”

Over four years of fighting in Syria has left more than a quarter of a million people dead and triggered waves of refugees fleeing to Europe. Today’s was the first such meeting since Russia launched its military intervention in Syria last month. Earlier on Friday, Jordan and Russia said they’d agreed to coordinate airstrikes against extremists in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking at a separate press briefing, said the negotiations had been difficult but helpful. Russia wants Iran and Egypt included in the discussions, he said, adding that the United Nations Security Council, European Union and other regional states should also be involved.

“All relevant actors regionally and internationally should be involved,” European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters. “Our open channel with Iran is something we are using very actively, and I hope Iran can be part of this process.”

Kerry declined to elaborate on specific ideas put forward, saying only that there were still some differences in opinion on how Syria’s political transition would take place, and that it required an international approach. After weeks of at times tense diplomacy over Syria, Kerry referred to diplomats from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as his “friends.”

“Diplomacy has a way of working through very difficult issues that seem to be absolutely contradictory and at odds,” Kerry said. “This is one of those cases.”

One of the key sticking points remains the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Al-Arabiya cited Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir as telling reporters. No agreement was reached in Vienna for Assad’s departure from office, he said.

Russia continues to push Assad to accept a plan for limited power-sharing that would give his opponents some role in a transitional administration, while ensuring internationally-recognized elections can take place in 2016, advisers to the government in Moscow said today.

“Syria’s future requires a transition and all of the parties here today agreed on that,” Kerry said. “That needs to be resolved in the political process. If we can get into a political process, sometimes these things have a way of resolving themselves.”

After visiting Jordanian King Abdullah on Saturday in Amman, Kerry will travel to Riyadh for talks with King Salman of Saudi Arabia.