Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Zurich on Tuesday next week for talks on Syria and Ukraine.
During a telephone call, “Lavrov and Kerry agreed to hold a personal meeting on 20 January in Zurich”, the Russian foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The foreign affairs chiefs in their conversation “continued examining ways to resolve the Syrian crisis and the conflict in Ukraine”, the ministry said.
It said Kerry and Lavrov were talking “on the instructions of the Russian and US presidents” after Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday about the crises in Syria and Ukraine.
In Washington, Kerry’s spokesman John Kirby confirmed the meeting, and said the US have concerns about Russia’s tactics in the conflict in Syria.
Moscow has denied reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Syrian rights groups that its air campaign in support of Assad’s government is hitting civilians. It insists its operation is aimed at “terrorists” and that it takes care to protect civilians.
“The secretary again expressed his concern, deep concern, over attacks on civilians by Russian and regime military forces,” Kirby said.
Kerry called on Russia to pressure its Syrian allies into allowing “humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, particularly in besieged and hard-to-reach places”.
In their call, Putin and Obama discussed the effort “to bring about a political transition inside of Syria”, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said on Wednesday that the permanent Security Council members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – had pledged to take “immediate action” to push for deliveries of aid to besieged areas of Syria.
In December, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process to end the nearly five-year war in Syria, without touching on the contentious issue of the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.