Kerry, Lavrov Meet Over Syria

Kerry, Lavrov Meet Over SyriaKerry, Lavrov Meet Over Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry has opened talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to try to narrow broad gaps on ways to end Syria’s civil war and restore stability in eastern Ukraine.

Kerry was meeting Lavrov on Tuesday before seeing Russian President Vladimir Putin in what are expected to be difficult discussions over the ways ahead in each crisis, AP reported.

Russia and the US are at odds over the mechanics of a political transition aimed at halting the war in Syria as well as the military approach to fighting the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group.

Ahead of the talks, the Russian Foreign Ministry attacked US policy, accusing Washington of “dividing terrorists into good and bad ones”. Russia has also rejected the outcome of a meeting in Saudi Arabia of Syrian opposition groups, who agreed to unite to hold peace talks but stressed President Assad could not participate in a political transition.

Russia has been carrying out airstrikes it says target positions of the IS extremists in Syria, but the US accuses Russia of bombing moderate rebels to shore up its ally President Assad. Moscow denies the allegations.

A US-led coalition has been targeting IS militants in Syria since September 2014 and does not coordinate its raids with the authorities in Damascus.

As the meeting with Lavrov began, Kerry said: “The world benefits when powerful nations can find common ground and I hope today we can find some common ground.”

On IS terrorism, he said Russia and the US both agreed it was “a threat to every country ... these are the worst of terrorists; they leave no choice but for civilized nations to join together and push them back and destroy them”, BBC quoted him as saying.

Kerry intends to prepare the ground for an international meeting on Syria mooted for later this week.

Negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition have been tentatively scheduled for January next year.

Lavrov said the IS issue was not limited to Syria, as the group was also active in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen.

He also said the meeting would cover the issue of Ukraine, with its continued division between the western-backed government in Kiev and the Russian-backed separatists in its east.

On Ukraine, the two countries are split over the implementation of a February agreement meant to end hostilities.

Kerry said: “Nothing would please us more than to solve the problem of Ukraine and move forward on the economic front.”