Lavrov pins hopes on U.S.-Russia initiative on Syria despite challenges

Laying the groundwork for a proposed international conference on Syria will prove quite challenging, but the chances of this conference are better than they seem today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

"But I hope that Russia and the U.S. will put this initiative into practice. It has a great chance to be successful. We spoke about the Russian-American agreement to convene a conference on Syria. We concentrated on the need to determine the range of participants in the conference, primarily those who would represent the Syrian opposition and the government," Lavrov said.

The Russian minister reiterated the importance of inviting key players who are influencing the situation on the spot to the event.

"It is important to make sure that the participants in the last Geneva conference receive invitations," he said.

Kerry, for his part, said that Russia and the United States wanted the Syrians themselves to make their own choice regarding the future of their country.

Russia and the U.S. have been doing their best to secure the implementation of last year's Geneva Communique, which allows the formation of a transitional government in Syria and permits the Syrian themselves to determine their future, the high-ranking U.S. diplomat said.

Kerry said that he and Lavrov had discussed possible participants in the Syria conference and would continue discussing this matter with the French foreign minister on Tuesday.

Moscow and Washington also voiced concern over the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria and agreed to strongly respond to any instance of chemical weapons use in Syria, Kerry said.

Kerry said that he and Lavrov had discussed the humanitarian situation provoked by the Syrian conflict and had expressed mutual concern over the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. The sides also agreed with the need to secure viable evidence and investigate what had already happened in this area.

Officials of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Department of State will meet in the near future to discuss steps to lay the groundwork for the proposed international conference on Syria, Kerry said.

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