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Putin, Kerry did not discuss direct military cooperation in Syria: Kremlin

AFP , Friday 15 Jul 2016
Kerry & Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, shake hands while posing for a photo during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, July 14, 2016 (Photo: AP)
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President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry did not discuss direct military cooperation in Syria during talks aimed at reviving the stalled peace process in the war-torn country, the Kremlin said Friday.

"The topic of direct military cooperation in the fight against terrorism did not figure" in the talks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters after a leaked document revealed Washington was set to offer Moscow closer military cooperation against jihadist groups in Syria.

"An exchange of information is occurring but, unfortunately we have not begun real cooperation to significantly improve the effectiveness of efforts in the fight against terrorism."

According to a leaked document seen by the Washington Post, Kerry's key proposal is to offer Russia closer US military cooperation against the Al Nusra Front jihadist group.

In exchange, Moscow would be required to pressure its ally Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to ground his own jets and end attacks on civilians and the moderate opposition.

On the second and final day of his visit to Moscow on Friday, Kerry is meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss ways to resolve the bloody five-year-long conflict.

Kerry's spokesman said that he would "explore initiatives in more detail" with Lavrov following a Thursday meeting with Putin, which Kerry said had been "serious and frank".

This diplomatic push comes as ferocious bloodshed in Syria persists following a series of failed ceasefires, and Russia and the United States appear increasingly at odds over the way forward amid heightened diplomatic tensions.

Meanwhile, there has been no sign from Damascus that Assad feels under any pressure to agree to talks on a new government, the next stage in the process if a ceasefire is restored.

Speaking to NBC News in Damascus, in an interview broadcast Thursday, Assad insisted Putin and Lavrov had never raised the issue of his departure or a political transition.

"Russia's position regarding Assad's fate is well-known and has not undergone any kind of change," Peskov said Friday.

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