Sunday 17 December 2017

Kerry meets Putin in Kremlin for talks on Syria

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

Stepan Kravchenko

Russian President Vladimir Putin met US Secretary of State John Kerry for talks in the Kremlin yesterday, in a bid to break a deadlock over resolving the Syrian civil war and to focus on combating Isil.

"You know that we're seeking outcomes to the most acute crises together with you," Mr Putin told Mr Kerry at the start of the talks, flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "I'm very glad to have the chance to meet and talk with you," he added.

Mr Kerry, who held discussions earlier with Mr Lavrov, said he appreciated Mr Putin's efforts to find a solution in Syria, and that the US and Russia together have "an ability to be able to make a significant difference here".

Agreements reached at two recent rounds of international talks on Syria in Vienna marked a "strong beginning, opening up possibilities," he said.

Mr Kerry's second visit to Russia this year comes as the US seeks to use a meeting on Friday in New York to pursue efforts for a ceasefire and an interim power-sharing government in Syria.

The US and allied nations want Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave office as part of a resolution to the civil war, while Russia opposes the move and says it's a matter for the Syrian people.

Russia began a campaign of airstrikes on September 30 in Syria in support of Assad against Isil and other militants.

The US, which is leading a coalition bombing Isil, says the Kremlin is mainly attacking other groups opposed to Assad, including some supported by the administration in Washington.

Talks on Syria in Vienna in November set a January 1 date for dialogue to begin between the Syrian government and opposition groups.

That goal now looks in doubt, with the State Department last Friday calling it a "target date, not a deadline".

Disagreement over which Syrian opposition groups should take part in the peace negotiations, and a list of terrorist groups that would be excluded, is holding up the process, Russian officials say.

Underscoring that the US isn't putting aside its other differences with Russia amid the worst period in relations since the Cold War, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters "the first item on Secretary Kerry's agenda" will be Ukraine, which "has isolated Russia from the rest of the international community," he said.

Irish Independent

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