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Lavrov, Kerry to discuss settlement of Syria, Ukraine crises in Zurich

January 14, 23:38 UTC+3
According to UN statistics, fighting between Syrian government troops and militants has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions since its start in 2011
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MOSCOW, January 14. /TASS/. During a phone conversation Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that they will meet in Zurich, Switzerland, January 20 to discuss ways to settle the Syrian crisis and the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.

"In line with an instruction from the Russian and US presidents, who discussed urgent international problems by phone yesterday, the heads of the foreign policy departments continued to consider ways to settle the Syrian crisis and the conflict in Ukraine," the ministry said.

"Lavrov and Kerry agreed to hold a personal meeting on January 20 in Zurich," it said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova said at a briefing Thursday that a considerable part of the meeting will be dedicated to issues of Syrian settlement with account for the fact that Russia and the United States are actively involved in the process and are co-chairs of the "Vienna format".

"We are proceeding from the assumption that the topic will be discussed in the most active way," Zakharova said. "We will hope that the meeting will add constructiveness to the general process of Syrian settlement."

Syria

According to UN statistics, fighting between Syrian government troops and militants has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions since its start in 2011.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia.

On October 7, 2015, four missile ships of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria. On October 8, the Syrian army passed to a large-scale offensive.

In mid-November 2015, Russia increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria to 69 and involved strategic bombers in strikes at militants.

Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries.

Russia’s aircraft have made over 5,200 sorties since the start of the operation in Syria.

Ukraine

Ukrainian troops have been engaged in fighting with local militias during Kiev’s punitive operation, underway since mid-April 2014, against the breakaway territories - the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics constituting parts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine.

Massive shelling of residential neighborhoods, including with the use of aviation, has killed thousands and led to a humanitarian disaster in the area.

Kiev has regularly violated the ceasefire regime imposed as part of the Package of Measures on implementation of the September 2014 Minsk Agreements.

The Package (Minsk-2) was signed on February 12, 2015 in the Belarusian capital Minsk by participants of the Contact Group on settlement in Donbass.

At talks in Minsk on January 13, 2016, the Contact Group on settlement in Donbass agreed on a ceasefire - the seventh since the conflict start, from 00-00 January 14.

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