December 16, 2015 / 9:00 PM / 2 years ago

Kerry to chair U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria on Friday: State Department

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 8, 2015.Stephane Mahe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will chair a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday to push efforts to end the conflict in Syria, the State Department said on Wednesday.

While in New York, Kerry will also host a meeting of the International Syria Support Group to discuss "efforts to foster a nationwide ceasefire and parallel political transition negotiations to end the conflict while intensifying the fight" against Islamic State militants, State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

On Friday afternoon, Kerry will chair a Security Council meeting that aims to "reinforce efforts to accelerate an end to the conflict, including necessary formal negotiations between representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition," Kirby told reporters in a news briefing.

Kerry held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in Moscow this week to pave the way for Friday's meeting of the support group.

The meeting follows talks in Vienna last month in which the United States, Russia and European and Middle Eastern countries agreed on a plan for a political process in Syria leading to elections within two years.

Kirby said the countries invited for the talks to be held on Friday morning were those that participated in Vienna. They included Iran, another key backer of Assad. Syria did not take part.

Among the goals of the meeting is to better define the notion of a transition and a ceasefire, and to give participants a chance to learn more about what happened at a meeting of Syrian opposition groups in the Saudi capital Riyadh last week, he said.

The groups in the Riyadh meeting called for an all-inclusive, democratic Syria and said Assad should leave power at the start of a transitional period.

U.S. diplomats hope Friday's talks will lead to a U.N. Security Council resolution that would provide a U.N. blessing to the efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Syria -- excluding the Islamic State group -- and to direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Chris Reese

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