Next round of Syria talks in Vienna on Saturday: US

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Vienna for the latest round of negotiations on the conflict in Syria on Saturday, the State Department said.

The talks will be a continuation of a dialogue between 17 nations, along with UN and EU representatives, to agree on a plan to end the Syrian civil war.

Neither representatives of the Syria opposition nor Bashar Al Assad’s regime are expected to attend at this stage of the dialogue, officials said.

But, as with the last round of talks on October 30, the US envoy is expected to be joined by his counterparts from Assad’s allies Russia and Iran.

The other leading participants are Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who for their part join Washington in backing rebel movements opposed to Assad’s rule.

“Secretary Kerry will hold bilateral and multilateral meetings with foreign counterparts to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria,” spokesman John Kirby said.

The negotiations are designed to agree on a framework for setting up a ceasefire and a transitional government to end the fighting between Assad and the opposition.

This would free the Syrian factions and their foreign backers to concentrate their fire on the Daesh group and organise elections overseen by the UN.

Washington and its Arab allies want Assad to step aside as part of that process, while Moscow and Tehran insist their ally’s fate is a matter for his own electorate.

Kerry’s November 13 to 17 trip will also take him to Tunisia and Turkey, where he will join US President Barack Obama at the G20 leaders’ summit.