Russia says no common approach yet with US on fighting Islamic State
Russia and the United States have been unable as yet to agree a common approach to fighting Islamic State insurgents, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after his second meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in recent days.
Kuala Lumpur/Moscow: Russia and the United States have been unable as yet to agree a common approach to fighting Islamic State insurgents, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after his second meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in recent days.
But Lavrov said he and Kerry had agreed that Russian and US officials would continue to work to find a common strategy for fighting the Islamist militant movement.
Russia has been trying to spur a rapprochement between the Syrian government and regional states including US ally Saudi Arabia and Turkey to forge an alliance to fight Islamic State, which has taken large amounts of territory in Syria`s civil war.
In urging wider cooperation to fight Islamic State, Russia says the jihadist movement`s gains meant even those -- including Washington -- who oppose Moscow-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should now join ranks with him against a common enemy.
"We all agree that Islamic State is the common threat, common evil. We agree that we need to join efforts to fight this phenomenon as soon and as effectively as possible," Lavrov said in comments carried by Russian state TV from Malaysia.
"For now we don`t have a joint approach on how specifically we can do it given the stand-off between various players on the ground, including armed units of the Syrian opposition."
A senior U.S. State Department official said Lavrov and Kerry also discussed the Ukraine conflict and what steps needed to be taken to fully implement the Minsk Agreement calling for a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.
Kerry and Lavrov were in Malaysia for meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and they held trilateral talks on the war in Syria with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Qatar on Monday.
A Western diplomat in Moscow was sceptical that the Russian diplomatic initiative could bear fruit.
"This is another push in Russia`s campaign to legitimise Assad in the eyes of the international community using the threat of the Islamic State," the diplomat said. "It would be a success for them to engage the Saudis with Damascus.
"But the Saudis won`t be fooled into this and any real change of stance would be only made in sync with Washington where the presidential administration changes soon and Obama won`t make such a major decision on his way out."
Kerry also met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday afternoon and welcomed Turkey`s recent decision to open its bases to U.S. air operations against Islamic State and its support for Syrian refugees.
The senior State Department official said Kerry also reiterated U.S. commitment to promoting conditions for a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Syria.
At the beginning of their meeting, Cavusoglu was asked by a reporter when there would be an effective moderate Syrian opposition force in a buffer zone in northern Syria that Turkey and the United States aim to establish.
"Now we are training and equipping the moderate opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon," he said, referring to Islamic State. "Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh on the ground."
The State Department official said that at the Qatar meeting Kerry, Jubeir and Lavrov "acknowledged the need for a political solution to the conflict and the important role to be played by opposition groups in reaching that solution".