U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held lengthy talks Tuesday in Berlin, seeking common ground on how to deal with the civil war in Syria and other issues of contention.
Lavrov called on the United States to press the Syrian opposition to hold direct talks with Damascus, saying that Syrians must resolve their problems by themselves.
Kerry said earlier Monday in London that Syrian opposition, which has been looking for more international support, is not going to be left dangling in the wind. London was the first stop on his tour of Europe and the Middle East. It’s his first foreign trip since recently succeeding Hillary Clinton.
Lavrov described his talks with Kerry as constructive. He said in addition to Syria, the two discussed events in other Arab countries, the Middle East and Afghanistan, and cooperation on the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.
“The discussion was to my mind constructive and in the spirit of partnership, without of course ignoring the questions which are irritating these relations, including the recently appearing (U.S.) ”Magnitsky law,” or the problem of the attitude in the United States towards adopted Russian children. Without closing our eyes to the problems, we are trying to solve them and move on.”
The so-called Magnitsky Act bans U.S. travel for Russian politicians and businessmen linked to human rights abuses.
Washington and Moscow are also at odds over U.S. plans to build a missile defense system in Europe, which Russia says undermines its own security.
The Syrian conflict has so far cost close to 70,000 lives.
Russia is one of few world powers to retain its ties to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States and its allies have been pushing for the strongman to step down.
Kerry is also set to meet with leaders in France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.