22 February 2019
Vladmir Putin (left) and John Kerry pose for photographers before their late-night meeting in Moscow. Photo: Reuters
Vladmir Putin (left) and John Kerry pose for photographers before their late-night meeting in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Kerry, Putin give Syrian ceasefire deal another try

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry broke off late-night talks overnight without a clear path to salvaging a ceasefire initiative over Syria.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Kerry wanted Putin to ground the Syrian regime’s air force in exchange for greater US military cooperation.

But the meeting ended with US officials unsure whether they will reach an agreement on the latest bid to rescue an eight-month effort to reach a ceasefire and hold talks on a leadership change.

The latter initiative has largely failed.

The US is proposing closer military coordination involving airstrikes against militant groups Nusra Front and Islamic State in Syria.

In turn, it wants Moscow to use its influence to ground Syria’s air force, which has defied a cease-fire agreement to continue pounding civilian population centers.

Kerry hopes the deal will reduce violence in Syria after more than five years of war.

At present, the Assad regime is flying about 24 sorties a day, a US military official said.

Although US officials were unsure whether Russia would agree to the deal, Putin’s comments before the start of the meeting were generally positive.

“We are really genuinely striving not only toward the very process of cooperation…but also toward achieving positive results,” he said, according to Interfax news agency reported.

He said he hoped Kerry would be able to report to President Barack Obama that “we also moved forward in discussing and solving the issues that we have gathered for”.

Kerry was not quite as upbeat.

“We’ve done a lot of groundwork but we’re not where we need to be yet,” he said. “We hope to be able to get there.”

In new details revealed in a leaked proposal document on Thursday, the US is offering to set up a command-and-control center that would help facilitate joint operations against Nusra Front and would be staffed by US and Russian military officers, intelligence officials and experts.

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