US calls for closer cooperation with Russia in Syria
MOSCOW – Agence France-PresseTop U.S. diplomat John Kerry stressed the urgency of closer cooperation in Syria after the Kremlin said July 13 that a U.S. proposal for direct military cooperation in the war-torn country had not been addressed in earlier talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the second and final day of his visit to Moscow, Kerry called for stepping up cooperation between the United States and Russia to thwart jihadist groups and revive the stalled Syria peace process, hours after at least 84 people were killed in an attack in Nice.
“Nowhere is there a greater hotbed and incubator for these terrorists than in Syria,” Kerry said after observing a minute of silence in honor of the victims ahead of his talks with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“And I think people all over the world are looking to us and waiting for us to find a faster and more tangible way” to fight terrorism, Kerry said.
“And you and I and your teams are in the enviable position of actually being able to do something about it,” he added, addressing Lavrov.
Kerry’s meeting with Lavrov follows what the top U.S. diplomat said were “serious and frank” talks with Putin on July 14.
But the Kremlin said July 15 that direct military cooperation between Moscow and Washington in Syria, a proposal Kerry was set to make, had not been addressed in the July 14 talks.
According to a leaked document seen by the Washington Post, Kerry’s key proposal is to offer Russia closer U.S. military cooperation against the al-Nusra Front jihadist group.
In exchange, Moscow would be required to pressure its ally Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to ground his own jets and end attacks on civilians and the moderate opposition.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said July 15 that the talks between Putin and Kerry had not marked the start of cooperation “to significantly improve the effectiveness of efforts in the fight against terrorism.”
U.S. officials were careful not to call the talks a last chance for diplomacy to resolve the bloody five-year-old conflict, but they warned time is running out.
Washington blames the failure of the peace process on Assad’s ceasefire violations and on al-Nusra’s increasing influence among the surviving rebel factions.