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Kerry: Syria opposition talks 'constructive'

Kerry: Syria opposition talks 'constructive'
Posted at 5:00 AM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 08:00:59-05

LE BOURGET, France (AP) — Talks in Saudi Arabia between various Syrian opposition factions have been "very constructive," but it's too soon to lock in a new international diplomatic meeting to begin a U.N.-led political process aimed at ending Syria's civil war, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday.

Speaking at a climate conference outside Paris,

Kerry said he had talked to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir about the opposition gathering in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the aim of organizing the next Syria meeting, tentatively set for Dec. 18 at the United Nations.

Kerry spoke of "working toward the potential of a meeting in New York," while adding that it was "not locked in yet."

The top U.S. diplomat was working the phones as he attended a global climate summit outside Paris.

"The meeting in Saudi Arabia appears to be very constructive at this point and we need to wait for the results of that conference," Kerry said. "I think everybody is moving in the direction that they want to rapidly get to a political process and get it under way under U.N. auspices. So we made progress but we have some tough issues to get over."

The Syrian opposition figures meeting in Riyadh are trying to form a unified front ahead of proposed peace talks with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Saudi Arabia is a key backer of Sunni opposition blocs pushing for Assad's ouster. Rebel factions at the talks include the Western-backed Free Syrian Army, the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham — groups that had rejected any negotiations with the government so long as Assad remained in power.

In addition to speaking with Lavrov and al-Jubeir, Kerry has also spoken with the foreign ministers of Italy, Jordan and Qatar, as well as the Saudi crown prince and China's state councilor.

Kerry has been in Paris since Monday and plans to stay until the conclusion of the climate talks. They're supposed to wrap up on Friday but may last into the weekend.