Kerry: Progress is being made with Russia on Syria despite Defense Department's doubts
US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Laos, said that progress is being made in pursuing closer cooperation between the two countries in Syria, the Washington Post reported.
Kerry hopes that Washington and Moscow will share intelligence to coordinate attacks against extremist groups in Syria. The Secretary of State also seeks to persuade the Kremlin to convince the Syrian government to focus its attacks on groups such as the so-called Islamic State and al-Nusra Front instead of moderate, US-backed rebel groups.
"My hope is that somewhere in early August we would be in a position to stand up in front of you and tell you what we're able to do with the hopes it can make a difference to lives of people in Syria and to the course of the war," Kerry said at a news conference in Vientiane.
Kerry’s comments come a day after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at a Pentagon press conference that the State Department’s efforts in Syria have been complicated by Russia’s focus on supporting the Syrian government, which in turn prolongs the war.
“We had hoped that they would promote a political solution and transition to put an end to the civil war, which is the beginning of all this violence in Syria, and then combat extremists rather than moderate opposition, which has to be part of that transition… So they’re a long way from doing that,” Carter stated.
“I think we’re a ways from getting that frame of mind in Russia [focusing on fighting extremist groups rather than moderate rebels]. But that’s what Secretary Kerry is working toward,” the Secretary of Defense added.
Kerry and Lavrov’s meeting on the sidelines of a summit of Southeast Asian states in Laos comes less than a week after it became known that Russian aircraft bombed an outpost used by US and UK special forces in southern Syria.