President Vladimir Putin says Russia and the United States could be close to reaching an agreement on Syria despite differences about how best to resolve the conflict, Bloomberg news agency reported on Friday.
In an interview two days before a G20 meeting in China with U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders, Putin said ongoing talks between Moscow and Washington were very difficult but on the right track.
“In my view, we are gradually moving in the right direction,” Putin was quoted as saying in a transcript of the interview released by the Kremlin. “I do not exclude that in the near future we may agree on something and show this agreement to the world community.
“For now, it is too early to say, but it seems to me that we are proceeding, as I already said, in the right direction.”
Putin had praise for Secretary of State John Kerry, whose “patience and determination’’ in pushing for an accord before President Barack Obama leaves office next year have made a deal possible.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov failed to reach a breakthrough deal on military cooperation and a nationwide cessation of hostilities in Syria last week, but said teams from both sides would try to finalize details in Geneva.
The negotiations between senior U.S. and Russian officials, aimed at securing a broad ceasefire in Syria, are now seen lasting into the weekend as fighting in the country intensifies.
There is also hope of agreeing a weekly 48-hour truce in the divided northern city of Aleppo to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations.
Syrian rebels, Kurdish militias, and Islamic state
The U.S. argues that Russia’s military campaign is targeting moderate rebels opposed to Assad under the guise of fighting terrorists. Russia says the U.S. is looking to block strikes on terrorist groups out of concern that the rebels it supports would be hit.
“The talks are very difficult,” Putin said. “One of the key problems is that we insist, and our U.S. partners are not opposed to this, that the so-called healthy part of the opposition should be separated from the radical groups and terrorist organizations.”
Asked about Turkey’s large-scale military operation in Syria, aimed at Islamic State and Kurds allied with Turkish separatists who are fighting the terrorist group with U.S. support, Putin said Ankara and Moscow “have a mutual desire to come to an agreement about the region’s problems, including the Syrian one.”
Putin urged other powers to accept gradual change in Syria rather than pushing for the overthrow of the country’s leader. He cited the examples of Libya and Iraq, where the removal of long-time dictators led to the “collapse of the state” and the spread of terrorism. “Where do you see elements of democracy in Libya?”
“Of course it won’t happen today or tomorrow. Maybe that’s what political wisdom is,” he said. russia