US and Russia 'making progress' on Syria peace talks

The US and Russia have made
progress on plans to convene a
conference to find a solution to the
conflict in Syria, Secretary of State
John Kerry has said.
"We narrowed down some of the
options," Mr Kerry told reporters after
attending an Asian regional security
meeting with his Russian counterpart,
Sergei Lavrov.
The meeting in Geneva might not take
place until August or later, he added.
On Monday, UN Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon said it was essential that the
conference be held as soon as possible.
"There is an urgent need for the violence
to end. Far too many lives have been lost
already and the conflict has generated a
huge and heart-rending humanitarian
crisis," Ban Ki-moon said.
Mr Ban said the US-Russian initiative
offered the "best chance for a lasting
solution", and urged the international
community to "fully commit".
Homs offensive
In May, Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov
announced that they would work
together to convince both the Syrian
government and opposition to accept a
solution based on the core elements of
the final communique issued on 30 June
2012, after the UN-backed Action Group
for Syria meeting.
The communique called for an immediate
cessation of violence and the
establishment of a transitional
government that could include officials
currently serving under President Bashar
al-Assad and members of the opposition.
However, the conference has been
delayed repeatedly, and talks are
continuing on who should participate,
how it should be structured and what
should be discussed.
The UN says more than 93,000 people
have been killed and 1.5 million people
have fled to neighbouring countries since
the uprising against President Bashar al-
Assad began in March 2011.
"The people of Syria want peace and
hope. Yet all they see is death upon
death. All they hear is talks after talks,"
Mr Ban said. "I once again call on all
those with influence to hear the cry of
the Syrian people and the call of history:
act and act now."
Also on Monday, Gulf Arab states called
for an urgent meeting of the UN Security
Council to prevent what they said was
the threat of a massacre in the city of
They said they were particularly worried
about reports of members from the
Lebanese Shia Islamist movement,
Hezbollah, once again fighting alongside
government forces, who launched a
major new offensive on rebels in Homs
on Saturday.