"The United States and its partners are not seeking regime change in Syria,” Kerry said in a news conference inside the Kremlin, before immediately adding that the U.S. continues to believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no possibility of remaining the country’s leader in the future
The statement appeared to be the most explicit sign yet that the U.S. is softening its policy towards Assad and marked a significant rhetorical shift for the U.S. towards Russia’s policy in Syria, which previously American officials have said was almost fundamentally at odds with their own”Appearances can be deceiving
Washington had been insisting Assad must step down immediately, although recently U.S. officials have suggested that he could remain in power during a transition period. Kerry’s efforts to shift the discussion away from Assad’s personal future, seemed to bring the U.S. closer to Moscow’s position that real peace talks might be able to begin prior to Assad’s removal.
“Despite the different positions of our countries, we have shown that Russia and the United States are moving in the same direction,” Kerry said
Kerry’s unusually long, three-and-a-half hour meeting with Putin followed a day of discussions with Lavrov, trying to explore ways of inching forward a peace process for Syria, which recently has taken on a new urgency.
The massive influx of refugees into Europe -- as well as recent terror attacks by the Islamic State -- have prompted the U.S. to begin more actively looking for diplomatic solutions to the crisis. Russia, which has launched an air campaign to prop up Assad, has also been pressing for talks and calling for the US to combine efforts to destroy the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
Both countries have been moving to try to line up a new round of negotiations that would include regional powers, such as Turkey and Iran, as well as Assad and groups from the Syrian opposition. Following today’s meeting, Lavrov announced that an international conference discussing further steps towards a peace process would now go ahead on Friday in New York.
But while Kerry’s comments appeared to mark a certain warming in relations between Russia and the U.S., it was still unclear how this would translate into a peace agreement on the ground in Syria.
Although both sides agreed to work on a list of Syrian groups they considered terrorists, there was little indication the U.S. was now ready to work more closely with Moscow militarily against ISIS. Kerry again raised American concerns that Russia is targeting moderate opponents of Assad, rather than ISIS.
Moscow has generally treated most groups opposed to Assad as terrorists, including several groups armed by the U.S.
Remember appearances can be deceiving when you consider the news item posted above with the one directly below. All I see is a shift in tactics
A Saudi-led 34-state Islamic military coalition against militants such as Islamic State is in line with what the United States has been saying its allies in the region should do, State Department spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.
He told reporters the United States needed to "learn a little bit more" about the coalition announced by Saudi Arabia, but added it welcomed any intensification of the effort against Islamic State.