U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Tuesday in Moscow to discuss both countries' involvement in the Syrian civil war and conflict in Ukraine. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
MOSCOW, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Seeking common ground on Syria and Ukraine, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met in Moscow to discuss the civil war in Syria and tensions in Ukraine on Tuesday.
At issue is whether a U.N. conference on Syria scheduled for Friday should go ahead.
Both Russia and the United States are involved in military campaigns in Syria against the Islamic State. The United States seeks the eventual removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Russia, supportive of the Assad regime, insists only the Syria electorate can decide the country's leadership.
"On ISIL or Daesh, Russia and the United States agree that this is a threat to everybody, to every country, that there's no negotiation," Kerry said ahead of the meeting. "These are the worst of terrorists. They've attacked culture and history and all decency and they leave no choice but for civilized nations to stand together and to fight and push back and destroy them."
Kerry is also seeking Russia's full cooperation in honoring a ceasefire, arranged in February with Ukraine, in exchange for an easing of European Union and U.S. sanctions against Russia. The West maintains Russia remains supportive of Ukrainian separatists, while Russia objects to what it says is Western influence on the Ukrainian government.
The two senior diplomats also are scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kerry last visited Russia in May, when he met with Putin. Kerry and Lavrov spent four hours in negotiations during that visit, though only a 90-minute meeting was scheduled.
"Even when there have been differences between us, we have been able to work effectively on specific issues. Today, I hope we can find some common ground," Kerry said Tuesday.