WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is encouraging Syria peace talks set to be held in Kazakhstan later this month and hopes that they could lead to progress in the international push to resolve the nearly six-year-old war.
"We're encouraging a meeting in Astana. We hope that could produce a step forward," Kerry told a January 5 news conference in Washington, referring to the capital of the Central Asian nation.
The planned talks between the Syrian government and the armed opposition would be under the aegis of a Russian-Turkish bid to resolve the conflict, an effort that has left Washington largely sidelined.
They would come ahead of UN-brokered peace talks that United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura hopes to convene in Geneva next month.
Moscow and Ankara brokered a fragile cease-fire between the two sides that came into force last week and has largely held despite sporadic violence near Syria's capital, Damascus.
Kerry told reporters on January 5 that he had spoken with de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and that the goal remained "to get to Geneva, where the real meat of the talks is going to take place."