Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov agreed in Paris Monday to try and bring about a localized truce in Syria, beginning with Aleppo, and other preparatory steps before the Geneva 2 conference starts in Montreux, Switzerland on Jan. 22. They were joined by the UN mediator Lakhtar Brahimi. Lavrov stressed at the same time that this should not be a precondition for the conference.

It is still not clear whether Syrian opposition groups will attend the meeting. The Syrian National Coalition has delayed voting on the issue until January 17. One of the bloc's main groups - the Syrian National Council - has already said it won't attend, citing a failure by the West to put enough pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad to convince him to give up power.