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Kerry and Lavrov to discuss Syria and Ukraine

August 24, 2016

The US and Russia are on opposite sides in the Syrian war, but they hope to find common ground in fighting IS jihadists. Also on tap, tensions in Ukraine are rising after Russia accused Kiev of interfering in Crimea.

US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Image: Reuters/J. Silva

US Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss the crises in Syria and Ukraine when he meets his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

The two governments have been holding talks in recent weeks, seeking commonality in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

The two men spoke by phone on Wednesday and discussed Syria, specifically the surge of violence in the second city of Aleppo, according to a statement put out by the Russian foreign ministry.

The United States and Russia are on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict but they share a common enemy in the Islamic State group.

Syrian forces target rebels in Aleppo

Kerry and Lavrov discussed "the prospects of coordinating Russian and US actions to fight terrorism" and "the need to draw a boundary line between Syrian opposition forces orientated towards Washington and terrorist groups that hide behind them," according to a statement released by the Russian foreign ministry.

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said "other issues" will also be on the agenda when the two men meet.

The fighting in Syria is now further complicated by Turkey's new military offensive into Syria with the aim of pushing IS jihadists out of the Syrian border town of Jarabulus.

Turkey, which opposes the Syrian regime of Bashar al Assad, is getting air support from the US, its NATO ally.

Tensions rise in Ukraine

On Ukraine, the US supports the pro-Western government in Kiev and has led sanctions against Moscow for annexing the Crimea in 2014 and supporting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are surging again after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the Ukraine of attempting a military assault in Crimea.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned of a possible "full-scale" Russian invasion.

Speaking with Kerry on Wednesday, Lavrov "urged the US to use its influence on Kiev to warn it against provocations and incite it to dialogue" with the rebels in eastern Ukraine, the Russian foreign ministry said.

The two men also discussed Syria on Wednesday, "including the situation around Aleppo where the (Syrian) government forces, with the support of the Russian military, have been carrying a humanitarian operation," according to the Russian ministry.

The United Nations has proposed a 48-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Aleppo to allow aid deliveries and the evacuation of the wounded from the divided city of 2 million that is also short on food and water.

So far no progress has been made on that proposal.

bik/jil (AFP, Reuters)