GENEVA — Prospects for restarting peace talks in Syria's civil war depend on the outcome of negotiations for the Syrian government to give up its chemical weapons, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday as meetings on the arsenal lurched into a second day.
Kerry and Lavrov met with U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi about the potential for a new Geneva peace conference, while a short distance away American and Russian chemical weapons experts were huddled in a hotel to haggle over technical details critical to a deal on chemical weapons.
In the background was the lingering threat of a limited U.S. military strike against Syria if President Bashar Assad doesn't hand over his chemical weapons in time.
Brahimi acknowledged the high stakes. He told Kerry and Lavov that their chemical weapons negotiation "is extremely important in itself and for itself, but it is also extremely important for us who are working with you on trying to bring together the Geneva conference successfully."
More than 100,000 people have been killed in two years of civil war. On Friday the international group Human Rights Watch accused the Syrian government and militias fighting on its side of carrying out summary executions that killed at least 248 people in two towns in May.
Kerry, flanked by Lavrov and Brahimi, told reporters after an hourlong meeting that the chances for a second peace conference in Geneva will require success first with the chemical weapons talks, which have been "constructive" so far.