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Kerry says Syria peace talks not likely until September

US, Russia still disagree over Assad’s role

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei — A proposed peace conference on Syria will probably not happen until at least September, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday after meeting here with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kerry spoke privately with Lavrov for nearly two hours outside an Asian security meeting that both diplomats are attending. He said in a statement that he concluded from the conversation that both the United States and Russia are ‘‘serious, more than serious, [and] committed’’ to ending the bloody civil conflict in Syria and working toward a negotiated peace.

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‘‘We both agreed that our countries have an ability to make a difference if we can pull together in that effort,’’ Kerry said.

Lavrov put a somewhat different spin on the meeting, telling the Russian media that Kerry had recognized that ‘‘consolidation’’ of the disparate Syrian opposition is the most important goal to achieve before peace talks can take place.

Under an agreement reached a year ago in Geneva and endorsed by international governments including Russia and the United States, Syria’s opposition has proposed a meeting of negotiating teams whose members were chosen ‘‘by mutual consent’’ to establish a transitional government. The United States, which has said no end to the Syrian war is possible unless President Bashar al-Assad cedes power, has since made clear the “mutual consent” clause ensured that Assad would not be involved.

Russia, Assad’s main diplomatic and military backer, has said that barring the Syrian leader from negotiations is an unacceptable precondition. In a meeting in Moscow in May, Kerry and Lavrov brushed over that disagreement and proposed that a second Geneva meeting take place within weeks between opposition and government representatives.

The proposed meeting has been repeatedly postponed, not only over Assad’s attendance, but also because the opposition — driven by disagreements over its own leaders and attendance. has never chosen a negotiating team or agreed to be present

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