US’ Kerry meets Russian president, FM in Moscow for Syria talks

US’ Kerry meets Russian president, FM in Moscow for Syria talks

US’ Kerry meets Russian president, FM in Moscow for Syria talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands as they pose for cameras ahead of a bilateral meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Mandel Ngan/Pool Image via AP)

United States Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Dec. 15 to talk about the a way out to end the war in Syria. 

Kerry’s meeting in Moscow comes four days before a planned Syria talks meeting in New York on Dec. 18, as a continuation of the two international meetings held in Vienna in November. It is still not certain whether or not Russia will join this planned talk, even though it had been a part of the Vienna talks. 

Putin welcomed Kerry to the Kremlin on Dec. 15 and began talks on efforts to halt the Syrian civil war.

“Together, we’re looking for ways out of the most urgent crises,” Putin told Kerry, adding that he was looking forward to discussing a “whole range of issues” with him, according to Agence France-Presse.

Kerry thanked Putin for allowing his foreign minister, Lavrov, to work with him to push for peace talks between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Syria’s armed opposition.

But neither gave any indication as to whether Russia has agreed to allow the next round of international talks on the crisis to go ahead in New York, as Washington and the United Nations hope.

“I am very happy to have the opportunity to meet and talk with you,” Putin said, sitting beside Lavrov, who had met the U.S. envoy earlier in the day.

“Minister Lavrov just now informed me in detail about both your proposals as well as some issues which require additional discussions,” Putin added.

At the start of a three-hour meeting with Lavrov, Kerry said he wanted to prepare the ground for a third round of talks of world powers on Syria, which is penciled in for Nov. 18 in New York. 

It was unclear whether the meeting would go ahead without progress between Russia and the United States over the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any political transition and over which rebel groups should be part of peace talks. 

“I look forward to making real progress,” Kerry was quoted as saying by Reuters before his meeting with Lavrov, which was followed by a lunch. 

“I think the world benefits when powerful nations with a long history with each other have the ability to be able to find common ground,” he added. “And today I hope we will be able to find some common ground.”

Kerry told Lavrov: “Even when there have been differences between us we have been able to work effectively on specific issues.” 

Russia, one of Assad’s staunchest allies, has launched a campaign of air strikes that it said targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but which also supported Assad’s forces. The Kremlin says the Syrian people, and not external powers, should decide Assad’s political fate. 

Lavrov told Kerry there was a need for more effective international cooperation in fighting terror. “On that route there are still questions which today we need to look at,” Lavrov said in his opening remarks. 

Kerry described the talks with Lavrov as “good” as he took a break to stroll in a shopping area near the residence of the U.S. ambassador to Moscow where he was mobbed by a crowd who wanted a glimpse of him.