Russia and the US have agreed on a number of ‘critical’ issues, particularly with regard to Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following talks in Moscow.
“The US stands ready to work with Russia,” Kerry told journalists after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday. He added that the two countries’ officials had had “a productive day” and the discussions had been “constructive.”
“Despite our countries’ differences, we demonstrated that when the United States and Russia pull together in the same direction, progress can be made,” Kerry said.
Calling the effort “good diplomacy,” the top US diplomat said that the whole global community benefits from such cooperation.
Moscow and Washington confirmed their previous agreements to work together to fight “the evil” of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, Lavrov told journalists, adding that some “practical steps” to advance this effort had been agreed upon at the meeting.
“We confirmed the agreements reached by the Russian and US militaries, including the agreements that also apply to the US-led coalition working against ISIL, and in practical terms agreed on some further steps which will help make our parallel work more coordinated and effective,” Russian foreign minister said.
“We see Syria fundamentally very similarly, we want the same outcomes, we see the same dangers, we understand the same challenges,” Kerry said. He added that the two nations have been “honest with differences,” but in general agree that the crisis in the Middle Eastern country “requires political process.”
“Russia and the United States agree that you can’t defeat Daesh without also deescalating the fight in Syria,” the Secretary of State said, adding that both Moscow and Washington are “focused on political process” and that “Syrians will be making decisions on the future of Syria.”
Kerry also said that Moscow and Washington have found “common ground” on which opposition groups should participate in the Syrian peace talks.
RT’s Ilya Petrenko confronted Kerry with a question asking him about threats to isolate Russia, which were repeatedly voiced by Washington in the past. The head of the US State Department replied that there was no such US policy in place. “We don’t seek to isolate Russia as a matter of policy,” Kerry said. “But we have consistently said that the world is better off when Russia and the US find common ground and an ability to be able to work together.”
Meanwhile, Lavrov has confirmed that a meeting of world powers on Syria penciled in for New York on Friday would go ahead.
A project for a resolution on Syria is expected to be ready for presentation to the UN Security Council after Friday’s meeting, Lavrov said.
“We met here today not as Russia and the US behind the back of other members of the international group on Syrian support, but as co-chairs of this group,” Lavrov said, adding that only an “inclusive format” and the collective efforts of all the members of the Syria group can lead to success in solving the crisis in the region.
Russia and the US are seeking solutions to the most critical crises together, Putin said earlier at the start of the meeting, adding that he “is happy for the opportunity to meet and talk.”
“Today you’ve had comprehensive talks at Russia’s Foreign Ministry,” Putin said to Kerry, referring to an earlier meeting with Lavrov. “Minister Lavrov has reported to me in detail on your proposals and on some issues that require additional discussions. I’m very happy with the opportunity to meet with you and talk.”
‘Good discussion about Ukraine’
The crisis in Ukraine was also on the agenda, with both Russian and US officials reiterating their support for the Minsk agreements.
“There are concrete ideas on how to most actively implement” the peace deal in the region, Lavrov said, adding that Moscow hopes to remain in close contact with its US partners concerning the matter.
When obligations stated in the accord are met, “US and EU sanctions can be rolled back,” Kerry said, adding that he had had “a good discussion about Ukraine” with President Putin.
“It is always better to be able to sit down in person and spend the significant amount of time that we were able to do today to hash out details and not feel the pressure of another meeting at a multi-level event,” the top US diplomat told reporters after more than three and a half hours of talks with Putin and Lavrov, after thanking them “for the amount of time both of them have afforded.”
US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for Russia Celeste Wallander and US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft were also present at the Kremlin meeting. On Russia’s side, Sergey Lavrov and Putin’s aide Yury Ushakov also attended.
This year, Kerry has already paid a visit to Putin in Russia. In May, the two met at the Russian president’s Sochi residence. That meeting was originally planned for some 90 minutes, but lasted for over four hours.
Prior to the Kremlin meeting, Kerry was spotted wandering along the tourist hot-spot Arbat Street in central Moscow. The US Secretary of State did some souvenir shopping and was warmly welcomed by locals and fellow visitors who recognized him in the street.
“I want to wish that the Russian people and the American people are good friends and that our countries come together in peace,” Kerry said when chatting to a group of people.