Kerry meets Putin to work on new Syria plan

MOSCOW, July 14 (UPI) — Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday at the Kremlin to discuss a new proposal that would coordinate Russian and U.S. forces in Syria to try and hasten an end to Syria’s five-year civil war.

The plan would create a Joint Implementation Group in which the two countries could work together on airstrikes that target groups that both countries agree are terrorists. It would also move Russia to use its diplomatic pull with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to maintain a cease-fire.

There is currently no agreement and the likelihood of an agreement is unknown, officials said as President Obama tries to reach a deal by the Aug. 1 deadline.

The plan would also include the United States sharing information with Russia on the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, which is affiliated with al-Qaida.

Kerry and Putin were optimistic.

“I hope after today’s consultations you’ll be able to advise [President Obama] of the progress made and possible headway for us to make,” Putin told Kerry.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some genuine progress that is measurable and implementable,” Kerry responded, “and that can make a difference in the course of events in Syria.”

Despite discomfort in some parts of the U.S. military with the plan, the State Department insists the deal only focuses on the issue of Syria and that differences with Russia over Crimea and Ukraine remain large.

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