John Kerry to meet with Putin in Russia
Top US diplomat John Kerry will head to Russia on Monday for his first visit in two years to meet President Vladimir Putin, as American ties with Moscow have plunged over the Ukraine crisis.
Kerry will hold talks Tuesday with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, before traveling to Turkey for a key NATO meeting.
Putin and Kerry will "discuss a full range of bilateral and regional issues, including Iran, Syria, and Ukraine," spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
"This trip is part of our ongoing effort to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure US views are clearly conveyed," she added.
While Kerry has met multiple times with Lavrov in different European capitals, he has not had one-on-one talks with Putin in Russia since May 2013 when they met in the Kremlin just months into his tenure.
Moscow has been calling for biting US and EU sanctions imposed over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine to be lifted.
But Kerry has repeatedly accused Moscow of failing to fully implement the terms of a ceasefire.
Earlier a Russian official told AFP that Kerry was expected in Sochi, where Putin is expected to spend the week at his summer residence.
"Kerry's visit to Russia is very symbolic," a diplomatic source told the RIA Novosti news agency.
"He cancelled his visit many times and finally decided to come. This will not be a breakthrough meeting but it is very important."
From Sochi, Kerry will travel to Antalya, Turkey "to consult with Allies and partners gathered for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on May 13," Harf added.
He is expected to return to Washington to join a White House dinner with Gulf leaders.
© 2015 AFP