In remarks to reporters after meeting with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Kerry confirmed that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the proposal in a telephone conversation on Tuesday and that the White House as well as the defence and state departments are studying it.
The secretary of state suggested that he is in favour of holding talks with Russia with the aim of learning what Moscow’s intentions are in Syria after sending a large amount of Russian weaponry to the Syrian government headed by President Bashar al-Assad.
“The Russians proposed in the conversation… and the last conversation specifically that we have military-to-military conversation and meeting in order to discuss… precisely what will be done to de-conflict with respect to any potential risks that might be run, and to have a complete and clear understanding as to the road ahead and what the intentions are,” Kerry said.
In the conversation, Kerry said he expressed the US disagreement with the aid Russia is providing to the Syrian government and he reiterated to Lavrov the US “commitment” to create a coalition of more than 60 countries to combat the Islamic State, a coalition of which he said Assad could never be a credible member.
The US would welcome a constructive role by Russia in the efforts to fight the IS, said Kerry, adding that there is no “military solution” to the Syrian conflict, but rather it can only be resolved by having a political transition without Assad.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Moscow will continue supporting the Syrian government with military and technical aid in its fight against terrorists such as the Islamic State.
The Russian leader rejected the idea that Moscow’s support for Assad is the cause of the current refugee crisis and he emphasised that, without Russia’s support for Damascus, the number of refugees would have been even greater.
The conflict in which Syria is mired began in March 2011, when a series of protests broke out against the Assad government, and since that time some 220,000 people have been killed and 7.6 million have been internally displaced, according to UN. calculations.