Russia, US reach consensus on Syria, not on bilateral ties

Moscow, March 25 (IANS) Russia and the US have reached some consensus on Syria during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit here, but relations are far from thawing so long as the sanctions on Russia are not lifted.

During his two-day visit, Kerry held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Syria, the situation in the Korean Peninsula and ties between their two countries, Xinhua reported.

The two sides agreed that further talks will be focused on details of Syria’s political transition, including a framework and a draft constitution, among other issues.

The political transition in Syria is the best and perhaps the only way to end the war, Kerry said late Thursday.

The agenda of further talks would include a timetable “for establishing a framework for political transition and also a draft constitution, both to be finished by August,” said Kerry, who arrived here on Wednesday.

Kerry and Lavrov outlined specific objectives on which Russia and the US agreed to cooperate.

On settlement of the Syrian crisis, the two sides would take steps to reinforce cessation of hostilities and end the use of indiscriminate weapons.

The two countries agreed to work to “finalise a common understanding for how this cessation can be institutionalised” and work “more effectively”, Kerry said.

Moreover, Russia and the US agreed to use their influence to facilitate the direct talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces, as well as to push for the release of detainees and the delivery of humanitarian goods.

On bilateral relations, Kerry repeated that anti-Russia sanctions will only be lifted when the Minsk Agreement is fully implemented.

The agreement, signed in the Belarusian capital city in February 2015 with the mediation of France and Germany, calls for a ceasefire along with a range of political, economic and social measures aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov expressed Russia’s readiness to cooperate with the US on an equal basis, warning of “counter-productivity of the trend to destabilise the foundation of Russian-American relations”.

But they agreed to establish regular review of bilateral relations, cooperate on combating cyberspace crimes and intensify dialogue on global security, said Lavrov.

Kerry’s visit showed that Russia and the US have minimised certain contradictions, Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Centre for International Studies in National Research University’s High School of Economics, said on Thursday.

Prospects of a really constructive cooperation have become tangible, though a huge number of problems remained to be solved, Suslov said.

“I assess this visit as an indication of real willingness of the US to work on a real political settlement of the Syrian conflict,” he said.

The two sides also discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Lavrov said that “irresponsible actions” of the North Korea must not be used as an excuse for any military build-up in northeastern Asia.

This is Kerry’s first visit to Russia so far this year and the third in 12 months.

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