The United States and Russia on Tuesday agreed to push both warring sides in the Syria conflict to find a negotiated solution and to hold an international conference in search of peace.
Visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held hours of talks with President Vladimir Putin and then Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov lasting late into the night in a bid to narrow the differences between Moscow and Washington on the conflict.
“We agreed that Russia and the United States will encourage both the Syria government and opposition groups to find a political solution,” Lavrov told reporters at a concluding news conference that ended after midnight.
Lavrov added they agreed on the need to hold “as soon as possible” an international conference on Syria to convince both rebels and the regime to accept the terms of the Geneva accord agreed by world powers last June for a peaceful solution in Syria.
He said the conference should take place “if possible by the end of this month.”
The Geneva agreement, which was reached by world powers on June 30, set out a path toward a transitional government without ever spelling out what President Bashar al-Assad’s fate should be.
Kerry said the conference should be held as “soon as is practical.”
“Its specific work will be to bring members of the government and the opposition together to see how we can implement the language of the communiqué,” said Kerry.
Kerry added: “A negotiated settlement is the essential means to ending the bloodshed in Syria.”
Lavrov said both the United States and Russia were ready to use all their capacities to bring “the government and opposition to the negotiating table.”
Kerry had earlier told Putin in talks lasting over two hours at the Kremlin that his visit was aimed at finding “common ground” with Moscow over Syria.
“The United States really believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria,” Kerry told Putin at the talks.
He cited these interests as “stability in the region, not letting extremists create problems in the region and elsewhere.”
The visit coincides with the first anniversary of Putin’s return to the Kremlin for a historic third term on May 7, 2012, which heralded a new chill in relations between Moscow and Washington.
Russia has long accused the West of worsening the Syria conflict by seeking to topple the Assad regime, and says Moscow is solely interested in seeing a peaceful solution to a conflict that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since March 2011.
The U.S. and other Western states have in turn accused Russia of failing to use its influence with the regime to halt the bloodshed and keeping up military deliveries to Assad.
Kerry’s visit is taking place at a time of particular tension after Israel launched air strikes in Syria which Israeli sources said targeted Iranian weapons destined for Hezbollah.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was “especially” concerned by the attacks, warning that the violence threatened neighboring Lebanon.
Source: AFP - Photo: Reuters