Russia and US agree to hold Syrian peace conference

Regime and rebels will be invited to attend after John Kerry strikes deal with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow

Moscow

Russia and the United States have announced that they will convene a conference by the end of the month to bring together representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition and rebel groups fighting his regime.

The decision was announced at a midnight press conference in Moscow between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry, who claimed that "we are here to say that we are ready to co-operate".

It was Mr Kerry's first trip to Russia as US Secretary of State and he was kept waiting for three hours by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. However, when the meeting did start, it lasted much longer than planned and later in the evening Mr Kerry announced what appeared to be a breakthrough. The logistics of how the conference will work are unclear; Mr Lavrov said it would be aimed at enforcing the plan agreed in Geneva last year which called for a transitional government but left open the question of what happens to Mr Assad. Russia has long been one of the lone international powers propping up President Assad's regime.

Mr Kerry appeared to give more ground than Mr Lavrov on that issue, when asked by a journalist how the conference would deal with the repeated statements by Washington that no future Syrian government can contain Mr Assad. The Russian Foreign Minister said that was a decision "for the people of Syria", while Mr Kerry said that while he could not personally see how Mr Assad could remain in power, "I'm not going to decide that tonight" – a much less categorical answer than has previously come from US officials.

"The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria – stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere," Mr Kerry told Mr Putin before his meeting earlier in the day in the Kremlin.

Mr Kerry's visit came amid a frosty bilateral climate between the two countries. In recent months, Washington has implemented a ban on a number of Russian officials believed to be implicated in rights abuses travelling to the US, a move that incensed Moscow and prompted a reciprocal list, as well as a ban on the adoption of Russian children by US citizens. The Kremlin has also accused Washington of funding the street protests that have sprung up in the past year and a half against Mr Putin's rule and a witch-hunt has been launched against Russian NGOs that receive foreign money.

But Mr Kerry was in Moscow to focus on the areas in which the two countries could make some progress, ahead of a planned visit to Russia by Mr Obama in the summer. David Cameron is also due in Russia on Friday for talks with Mr Putin.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all