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Paris (AFP) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Monday called for “localized ceasefires” in Syria ahead of peace talks later this month in Switzerland.

Lavrov and UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi also said Damascus ally Iran should take part in the so-called Geneva II talks due to start in Montreux on January 22, after a meeting in Paris.

“We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire, maybe a localized ceasefire beginning with Aleppo [north of Syria],” Kerry said.

Both said they hoped ceasefires could be in place before the talks, along with plans for prisoner exchanges and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

“What can be done before the beginning of the conference should be done,” Lavrov said. “We are going to try to send signals to all the Syrian sides on the need for the establishment of a localized ceasefire.”

Lavrov added, however, that these issues would not be a precondition to the talks.

He also reiterated Russia’s support for Iran taking part in the peace talks, which has been repeatedly rejected by the United States.

Kerry said Tehran could take part in the talks only if it agrees to the principles set out at the first Syria peace talks in Geneva, including the goal of creating a transitional government.

“Iran has yet to state whether or not it supports implementing the Geneva 1 communique,” Kerry said. “We would welcome Iran participating if Iran is coming to participate for the purposes of the conference.”

“I invited Iran today to join the community of nations… and be a constructive partner for peace,” he said.

The Swiss talks have been organised to try and revive the idea of moving to a transitional government in Syria — where the nearly three-year conflict has killed 130,000 people — including figures from the current regime and the opposition.

The Syrian opposition has in the past called for President Bashar al-Assad to stop using heavy weapons, lift sieges on a number of opposition-held areas and allow the opening of humanitarian corridors as a show of good faith ahead of any talks — to no avail.

Photo: AFP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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