Syria peace hopes at Paris crossroads
PARIS (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday spearheads a bid to drag Syria's opposition forces into peace talks with President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
At a Paris meeting that represents a critical juncture for international efforts to end a bloody conflict that has claimed more than 130,000 lives, Mr Kerry and ministers from 10 other countries in the "Friends of Syria" grouping will seek to persuade the opposition National Coalition to attend talks due to start later this month in Switzerland.
The Coalition is profoundly divided over the issue: its main component, the Syrian National Council has long maintained that it will not enter peace talks without clear assurances that Mr Assad will have no role in the transitional government the talks will aim to establish.
At talks in Istanbul last week, the different factions were unable to agree on terms for their attendance at the so-called Geneva II talks that are scheduled to get under way in Montreux on January 22.