Syria talks to go ahead on Friday in New York: Lavrov, Kerry


MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia and the United States said that a planned international meeting on the Syrian crisis would take place in New York on Friday, after President Vladimir Putin received US Secretary of State John Kerry.

“We support the idea of convening in New York another meeting of the International Syria Support Group at the ministerial level this Friday, December 18,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks at the Kremlin.

Kerry, whose meeting with Putin lasted for nearly three hours, also confirmed the meeting would take place.

Washington and Moscow are the key powers in the process, leading talks through the 17-nation International Syria Support Group.

Kerry had come to Moscow on Tuesday not knowing whether Russia would agree that the Syria crisis meeting should take place on Friday in New York.

“Our meeting focused principally on Syria, counterterrorism and Ukraine,” the top US diplomat said.

He also said he conveyed to Putin Washington s concern “that some of Russia s strikes have hit the moderate opposition” in Syria, and not just the Islamic State group.

“And I m pleased to say he took that under advisement,” Kerry said.

Both he and Lavrov said the negotiations would lead quickly to a UN Security Council resolution to underpin the Syria peace process.

Russia and the United States are sponsors of an international effort to broker a ceasefire and political talks between President Bashar al-Assad s regime and the armed opposition.

But their positions on Assad s eventual fate and on the best tactics to employ against the jihadist IS group differ starkly, threatening to stymie the process.

“On the Syrian settlement we were focusing on intensifying our efforts in counter-terrorism,” Lavrov said.

“ISIL, Jabhat Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups are common threats to every one of us and today we reiterated our determination to uproot this evil,” he said, referring to the IS and Al-Nusra Front jihadist groups.

Earlier Tuesday, Kerry called Lavrov the “co-convenor” of the talks and thanked him for his efforts “to lead us up now hopefully to getting to New York and building on the progress that s been made.”

But the negotiations had been in jeopardy after Moscow took issue with last week s unprecedented rebel talks in Saudi Arabia, charging that several “terrorist” groups had taken part in them.

US-Russia ties have also been strained over the crisis in Ukraine, but the US side said it would not be drawn into bargaining with Russia over the sanctions it imposed over Moscow s interference there.

“We had a good discussion on Ukraine,” Kerry said, adding that when Russia meets the conditions set out in a Western-brokered peace agreement, “sanctions can begin to be rolled back.”



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