U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was looking to strengthen ties with Russia as he tries to put an end to the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but instead he was met with the coldest of receptions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin kept Kerry waiting three hours before their meeting at the Kremlin on Tuesday and continuously fiddled with his pen as the top American diplomat spoke about the ongoing crisis in Syria.
Kerry’s visit to Moscow comes as he seeks Russian help in ending Syria’s civil, telling President Putin that common interest in a stable Middle East could bridge divisions among the big powers.
The brush off: Unlike the pomp and circumstance of most diplomatic visits, Russian President Vladimir Putin kept U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry waiting for three hours before their appointed meeting time
Putin, however, made no mention in his own public remarks of the conflict in Syria, which has generated some of the frostiest exchanges between Washington and Moscow since the Cold War.
Yet with the killing now in a third year and no end in sight as U.N. intervention remains stymied by international arguments, Kerry struck a positive tone as he set about trying to narrow differences sufficiently to agree a plan for a settlement that proved out of reach at talks in Geneva almost a year ago.
‘We have both embraced in the Geneva communiqué a common approach, so it’s my hope that today we’ll be able to dig in to that a little bit and see if we can find common ground.’
The United States and Russia endorsed a plan in Geneva last June that called for the creation of a transitional government in Syria, where at least 70,000 people have now been killed since March 2011, but which left open the question of what would happen to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Long-time arms supplier to Assad and suspicious of Western aid for opponents of authoritarian leaders around the world, Moscow says Assad’s departure must not be a precondition for a dialogue among Syrians to end the conflict.
Russia, backed by China, has refused Western appeals to consider sanctions on Assad, vetoing three U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning his crackdown on opposition groups.
The United States are reluctant to give military aid directly to an insurgency that includes militant Islamists but alarmed that violence is continuing and may spread. The superpower is making a new push for a joint international approach to contain the conflict.
Deal or no deal: Kerry has been pushing for Russia to help out, saying that it is just one of a handful of upcoming issues that are of mutual interest but he has yet to commit
Poker faces: The U.S. is trying to get Russia to act with them against the dictatorial Assad regime in Syria but the Russian leader has refused to publicly condemn the Syrian leader
Israeli air strikes in Syria have heightened a sense of urgency in a region strained by confrontations between Assad’s ally Iran and other Arab powers, as well as the hostility between Israel and its neighbors, notably Iran and Hezbollah.
Differences over Syria have deepened strains in ties between the United States and Russia that are also hampered by what Washington views as a crackdown on Russian civil society since Putin began a third term as president a year ago after the biggest protests since he first rose to power in 2000.
Kerry’s visit is intended to help improve relations and pave the way Obama to hold talks with Putin in September, when Russia hosts a summit of the Group of 20 nations. Obama and Putin are also to meet at a Group of Eight summit in Britain in June.
Kerry is publicly trying to hint how there are many issues on the table- including ‘North Korea, Iran, Syria’and economic cooperation- that could be good working ground for U.S.-Russia relations.
Putin, a former KGB spy who accused Washington of helping foment protests against him last year, was less effusive than Kerry but said he was glad to see him in Moscow and expressed hope that relations would improve.
Both sides have said they hope to increase cooperation on counter-terrorism following the Boston Marathon bombings, which U.S. officials suspect were carried out by two ethnic Chechens who once lived in Russia.
‘We recently had a substantial phone conversation with President Obama. And we had an opportunity to discuss many aspects of our relations,’ Putin said.
‘I think it is very important that our key ministries, our foreign ministries and agencies, work together to resolve the acutest issues of the modern world.’