US and Russia plan 'concrete steps' for Syria

  • 20/07/2016
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad answers questions during an interview with al-Manar's journalist Amro Nassef, in Damascus, Syria, in this handout photograph released by Syria's national news agency SANA on August 25, 2015.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he was open to the idea of a coalition against Islamic State but indicated there was little chance of it happening with his enemies, casting further doubt on a Russian plan to forge an alliance against the militant group. REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTX1POV8

US Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and Russia have planned "concrete steps" for the direction they will take in Syria.

He also urged Russia to use its influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt Syrian military attacks on opposition groups and civilians.

Mr Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone earlier on Tuesday and discussed ways to resolve the Syria crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

At a news conference in London, Mr Kerry said he would update his fellow foreign ministers at an international meeting on Syria in the British capital on Tuesday, describing his visit to Moscow last week "and the concrete steps that the US and Russia are planning to take".

"I spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov again today," he said.

"We both believe that we have an understanding of the direction we are going in and what needs to be achieved and our teams will meet shortly and we are going to continue to do that in order to bolster the cessation of hostilities and in order to increase our capacity to fight back against al-Qaeda, which is Nusra, as well as fight back against ISIL," Mr Kerry said.

In a meeting with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in London, Mr Kerry said it was vital for Moscow to use its influence with the Assad regime to halt its attacks on opposition groups and innocent civilians, which he said were in violation of the cessation of hostilities.

He also emphasised the need to end all attempts to besiege the city of Aleppo and other besieged towns and ensure full humanitarian access there, according to State Department Spokesperson John Kirby.

Mr Kerry declined to give details and said that more work was needed before those steps could be implemented and that Russia and the United States still differed over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At the same London news conference, Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called on Russia to use its "unique ability" to stop the Syrian conflict by convincing Assad to put an end to five years of fighting that have ravaged the country.

Mr Johnson called the current Syrian situation "dire" and said the country faced a "terrible humanitarian catastrophe".

Russia backs Assad and is giving military help to his campaign against rebel fighters.

The United States believes the Syrian leader has to go and is supporting some of the rebel groups.

The Washington Post newspaper reported last week that Mr Kerry went to Moscow with a proposal for intelligence sharing with Russia over Syria and joint selection of bombing targets.

A Kremlin spokesman said last week that Mr Putin and Mr Kerry had not directly discussed military cooperation.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov also discussed Russia's doping scandal.

"Lavrov told Kerry all that he thinks about the anti-Russian, inflammatory claims made by the US Anti-Doping agency to the International Olympic Committee," it said.