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Kerry to visit Paris Monday but may cold-shoulder Syria meeting

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An Aleppo street after an air strike this month Reuters/Abdalrhman Ismail

US Secretary of State John Kerry is to visit France and the UK next week for talks that should cover the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. But officials would not say whether he would attend Monday's meeting in Paris to revive the Syrian ceasefire, organised by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in the absence of a new meeting of International Syria Support Group (ISSG).


Kerry will hold "bilateral talks" with Ayrault on a number of subjects, including Syria and Ukraine, on Monday, his spokesperson Mark Toner said on Thursday.

But Toner was unable to say whether he would attend a meeting organised by Ayrault on the same day with the Saudi, Qatari, Emirati and Turkish foreign ministers to discuss efforts to restart the Syrian peace process.

"We welcome those kind of efforts," Toner said but added that the ISSG, chaired by the US and Russia, "still plays a primary role".

The ISSG, which was established in autumn 2015, comprises 17 countries and three multilateral organisations.

Paris acts in absence of ISSG meeting

Ayrault said on Wednesday that he had organised the Paris meeting because "for the moment we have not had a response from the Americans or the Russians" on the possibility of a new ISSG meeting.

Government spokesperson St├ęphane Le Foll said it was open to "all countries that believe that we must at any price revive negotiations that stopped with the Syrian regime's attack on Aleppo".

The State Department could also not say whether Kerry would attend an international meeting in Paris on 30 May, called by France to try to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

France and the US have differences on the Syrian question, notably over US President Barack Obama's decision to scrap plans to bomb Syrian government infrastructure in 2013.

Kerry will then go on to London for an anti-corruption summit and Oxford, where he will give a speech at the university.