US-Russia military talks on Syria hopefully 'very shortly': Kerry

18th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

The United States hopes that "military-to-military" discussions with Russia on the conflict in Syria will begin very shortly, US Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to London on Friday.

"The president believes that military-to-military conversation is an important next step and I think hopefully it will take place very shortly," Kerry said after talks with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.

"Obviously our focus remains on destroying ISIL (Islamic State) and also on a political settlement with respect to Syria," he added.

The White House said Thursday it was open to limited talks with Moscow following what Washington believes is the deployment of Russian troops and heavy weapons to war-torn Syria.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama's administration was willing to hold "tactical, practical discussions" on operations in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State group.

The decision signals a newfound willingness to engage with Russia, after months of giving President Vladimir Putin the cold shoulder over his actions in Ukraine.

Putin has provided vital support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout a popular uprising against his regime and as the conflict has metastasized into a brutal civil war that has killed 240,000 people and displaced four million.

But Moscow has also sought to portray Assad's army as a bulwark against Islamist rebels, including IS.

Washington and European states view Assad as a pariah who shoulders blame for driving Syria into chaos and allowing the Islamic State group to thrive.

But with Western efforts to tackle the Islamic State group floundering, and the moderate Syrian opposition losing ground to radical groups, the White House may hope to enlist Russia in the fight.

© 2015 AFP

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