Russia, US to meet at UN General Assembly to set peace talks date: Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry (above) will travel to Jerusalem on Sunday to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau on the progress made in the Middle East peace talks and Syria, a US official said. -- PHOTO: AP
US Secretary of State John Kerry (above) will travel to Jerusalem on Sunday to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhau on the progress made in the Middle East peace talks and Syria, a US official said. -- PHOTO: AP

GENEVA (AFP) - United States Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday he would meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov again in New York later this month to try to set a date for a long-delayed peace conference for Syria.

"We both agreed... to meet again in New York around the time of the UN General Assembly around the 28th in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for that conference," Mr Kerry told reporters at a joint press briefing in Geneva with Lavrov and the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi.

The peace talks, first proposed during Mr Kerry's visit to Moscow earlier this year, have failed so far to materialise, while the fighting on the ground in Syria has intensified.

Mr Kerry said both Russia and the US were "deeply concerned about the death toll and destruction, the acts on both sides, all sides, that are creating more and more refugees, more and more of a humanitarian catastrophe".

He said Washington and Moscow were "working hard to find common ground" to implement the so-called Geneva II peace talks, which aim to bring together the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to the conflict.

Much of the way forward "will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here in the next day, hours, days, on the subject of the chemical weapons", Mr Kerry said at the hastily convened press briefing.

He and Mr Lavrov were due to head straight back to a Geneva hotel to join a second day of talks under way among their delegations on how to implement a Russian proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control.

But the two sides are also working on the parallel political track seeking to implement a ceasefire agreement hammered out in the Swiss city on June 30, 2012.

Mr Lavrov said it was "very unfortunate that for a long period the Geneva communique was basically abandoned and we were not able to have endorsement of this very important document in the Security Council.

"We agreed to meet in New York in the margins of the General Assembly and see where we are, and what the Syrian parties think about it and do about it," he added.

Mr Brahimi said the three men had had "useful" discussions at the United Nations on Friday.

But he also hailed the chemical weapons talks as "extremely important for all of us who are working with you on trying to bring together the Geneva II conference successfully".