Kerry Presses on With Russian Talks on Syria

Kerry Presses on With Russian Talks on SyriaKerry Presses on With Russian Talks on Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry is still pursuing an agreement with Russia on military cooperation in the fight against the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group in Syria despite major setbacks and skepticism from other administration officials and US allies, US officials with knowledge of the talks said on Friday.

“We believe this approach is still worth pursuing,” State Department Spokesman John Kirby said in an email response to Reuters, adding: “But it remains to be seen whether or not we can get there.”

Kerry has been pursuing a proposal that envisions resuscitating a Cessation of Hostilities agreement, creating a center where the two countries would share intelligence for targeting airstrikes and prohibiting the Syrian air force from attacking US-backed militant groups.

The task of identifying acceptable militant targets has grown harder since a major extremist group said it had cut its ties to Al-Qaeda. That is leading some militants to join the renamed group and made it harder to target hardliners without hitting other units.

“We’ve been very concerned about the situation in Aleppo and we have made those concerns plain to Russian officials,” said Kirby, who noted that Kerry had spoken to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in a phone call on Friday.

Speaking in Laos last week, Kerry said he hoped for an agreement early in August, but two US officials said on Friday there had been “limited progress” toward a deal.