Top diplomats meet in Munich at critical time

January 31, 2014
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German President Joachim Gauck speaks during the opening of the 50th Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. The conference on security policy takes place from Jan. 31, 2014 until Feb. 2, 2014.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

MUNICH (AP) — Top diplomats and defense officials are converging on Munich for a security conference renowned as a venue for backroom diplomacy and negotiations, with several international crises in the spotlight.

U.N.-Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi was arriving hours after eight days of bitter negotiations between Syria's warring sides concluded in Geneva without tangible results. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whose country has been a key supporter of the Syrian regime, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as well as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also are expected in Munich.

Kerry plans to meet Ukrainian opposition leaders at the conference, which Ukraine's foreign minister also is to attend. Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joins the meeting Sunday to address questions about his country's nuclear program.