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U.S., Britain discuss Syrian peace talks as fighting continues

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerryand British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, met again on Saturday to discuss Syria and other issues
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerryand British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, met again on Saturday to discuss Syria and other issues
LONDON — Secretary of State John F. Kerry held talks Saturday with Britain’s senior diplomat as attempts to halt the fighting in Syria foundered and the United States expanded its military effort against Islamic State militants to Libya.
The Saturday meeting with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met over breakfast was Kerry’s only official encounter during his one-night stay in London while en route to Amman, where he plans to talk with Jordanian King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry and Hammond talked about the brutal civil war in Syria and discussed efforts to broker a partial ceasefire and get humanitarian aid delivered to trapped residents facing starvation as their towns and villages are under siege.
A meeting a week ago in Munich established a Friday deadline for what was called a “cessation of hostilities,” one legal step short of a full ceasefire. But the deadline elapsed while U.S. and Russian diplomats dickered over the terms.
Coming just days before Kerry is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill about the State Department’s budget request for next year, the weekend of diplomacy underscores his concern over the peace talks that have struggled to get off the ground as did two previous peace efforts before them.
Kerry struck an optimistic note in London, calling the negotiations “serious and so far constructive, with a few tough issues still to resolve.”
Kirby said Kerry and Hammond had discussed “progress” being made in Geneva. The State Department spokesman said Hammond also updated Kerry on a Brussels summit in which diplomats agreed to grant Britain “special status” in the European Union so it can set new limits on benefits for future immigrants from elsewhere in Europe and adopt other measures independent of the organization.
From London, Kerry was scheduled to fly visit King Abdullah in Jordan to talk about the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State in neighboring Syria.
Jordan is one of the front-line countries confronting the fallout from the Syrian civil war that grew out of peaceful protests five years ago. The small kingdom has taken in more than 600,000 Syrian refugees, and tens of thousands more are massed along the border trying to get in.
Kerry may also talk with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who has a home in Amman, though the meeting has yet to be confirmed.
Source: The Washington Post, Feb 20, 2016

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