Subscribe

US could hold military talks on Syria with Russia, Kerry says (+video)

The Secretary of State said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had told him that Russia was only interested in confronting the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Syria.

  • close
    In this Monday August 3, 2015 file photo, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, right, talk before a trilateral meeting, in Doha, Qatar.
    Brendan Smialowski/AP/File
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

The Obama administration is weighing an offer from Russia to have military-to-military talks and meetings on the situation in Syria amid increasing US concern and uncertainty about Russia's military buildup there, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.

Kerry said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had proposed the consultation in a phone call on Tuesday and that the White House, Pentagon and State Department were considering it. Kerry suggested that he favored such an idea, noting that the United States wants a clear picture of what Russia's intentions are in Syria following a recent military buildup there.

Lavrov proposed a "military-to-military conversation and meeting in order to discuss the issue of precisely what will be done to deconflict with respect to any potential risks that might be run and have a complete and clear understanding as to the road ahead and what the intentions are," Kerry told reporters at a joint State Department news conference with South Africa's foreign minister.

"You have a conversation in order to do that," Kerry said. "It is vital to avoid misunderstandings, miscalculations (and) not to put ourselves in a predicament where we are supposing something and the supposition is wrong."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, without commenting on specific consultations, said the Obama administration "would welcome constructive Russian support for the efforts of the anti-ISIL coalition in Iraq and in Syria."

Kerry said Lavrov had told him that Russia was only interested in confronting the threat posed by the Islamic State group in Syria. But Kerry stressed it remained unclear if that position would change and Russia would mount a defense of Syrian President Bashar Assad who the US believes must leave power.

"Obviously, there a questions about that," he said. "I am not taking that at face value."

However, he added that if Russia is only focused on the Islamic State group then it remains a potential partner in pushing for a political transition in Syria. "If Russia is only focused only on ISIL and if there is a capacity for cooperation ... there still is a way to get a political negotiation and outcome," he said.

Kerry also said he had spoken on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who office announced earlier that he would visit Moscow next week to discuss Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

His comment come as Russia's military buildup in Syria has perplexed the Obama administration and left it in a quandary as to how to respond.

In his call with Lavrov on Tuesday, his third in 10 days, Kerry said he sought clarity about Moscow's moves and warned that Russian support for Assad "risks exacerbating and extending the conflict."

In the afterglow of the Iran nuclear deal, which was hailed by the Obama administration as the kind of diplomacy that can be achieved when Russia and the United States cooperate, US officials had hoped for a change in Russia's position about Syria, potentially even enlisting its support to move Assad out.

Moscow's latest actions, however, have taken many by surprise and further muddied efforts to fight Islamic State militants while trying to promote political transition in Syria.

In recent days Russia has sent about a half-dozen battle tanks and other weaponry — along with military advisers, technicians, security guards and portable housing units — to Syria with the apparent goal of setting up an air base near the coastal town of Latakia, a stronghold of the Syrian president.

US officials say Putin's intentions in Syria, particularly in the medium- to long-term, remain a mystery.

"The decision-making process in that country is rather opaque," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said of Russia, adding that Moscow has long used Syria as a "client state."

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK