'I'm ready, you’re ready, let's go!' Kerry sits down for Syria talks with Putin in Moscow
“Our last conversation with President Obama convinces me that we are not just developing cooperation, but doing so with the aim of achieving tangible results,” said the Russian president, after receiving Kerry at the Kremlin, during a welcoming photo opportunity. Putin called his US counterpart last week, partly to discuss Syria. “I send the President my best wishes, and hope that you can report that we have moved forward on our issues, as a result of these talks,” he said.
“Hopefully we will be able to make some genuine progress that is measurable and implementable that can make a difference to events in Syria,” the US Secretary of State replied. “I look forward to a serious conversation.”
"I'm ready to work, I know you are, let's go," said Kerry with a smile, before the media were ushered out, and the two sides got to down to business, with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov present by Putin's side.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post published a leaked draft of the new Syrian plan Kerry is said to be offering to Putin, which includes “integrated operations” between the two countries, with a command center to be stationed in Amman, Jordan.
According to the text, the two countries will form a Joint Implementation Group (JIG) whose “purpose is to enable expanded coordination between the United States and the Russian Federation beyond the established safety of flight procedures."
“The participants, through the JIG, are to work together to defeat Jabhat al Nusra and Daesh,” reads the text, referring to Al-Qaeda offshoot that has occupied large swaths of Syria, and Islamic State terror group.
"We have teed up ideas to the Russians," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner, on the eve of the trip, explaining that Kerry was visiting Russia to "to try to resuscitate the cessation of hostilities,” following growing number of violations of February's ceasefire, mediated by Moscow and Washington.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova confirmed hours before Kerry's arrival that Syria “will be the center of attention,” but refused to speculate about Russia’s openness to Washington plans.
“Let’s not discuss what we do not know yet. Let Kerry bring the plans first,” she told the media in Moscow.
The Kremlin has also refused to directly comment on any joint military plan, since it first filtered through to the media in a series of briefings and leaks a fortnight ago.
In what is Kerry’s fourth visit to Moscow in just over a year, the two sides will also discuss Ukraine, and the Nagorno-Karabakh tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan.