: Moscow Times: Kerry to discuss Syria with Putin, Lavrov in Moscow

12:10 Mar. 16, 2016

Moscow Times: Kerry to discuss Syria with Putin, Lavrov in Moscow

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to reporters at the State Department in Washington, March 9, 2016 (AP Photo)

Kerry announces visiting Moscow next week to discuss Syrian crisis

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in official statements Tuesday (March 15) that he would travel to Moscow next week to discuss the Syrian crisis with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Watch also Kerry meets EU foreign ministers in Paris

Kerry is traveling to Moscow "to discuss how we can effectively move the political process forward and try to take advantage of this moment," he said, the U.S. Department of State reported on its website.

"Today, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the start of this horrific war, we may face the best opportunity that we've had in years to end it," Kerry said.

Watch also U.S. calls on Russia to immediately release Savchenko

Putin had announced on Monday he would be pulling out the "main component" of Russian forces from Syria. The announcement, which was timed to coincide with the resumption of peace talks in Geneva, reportedly came as a surprise to Western leaders and Syrian factions alike.

"We have no insight at all into Russia's strategy, Russia's thinking and Russia's tactics, so we are left guessing," British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was quoted by The Independent as saying.

Watch also Kerry warns Syrian FM comments 'clearly trying to disrupt' peace talks

Although the motives behind Putin's tactics remain open to interpretation, Moscow appeared to be following through on its plans, Western officials said.

As the withdrawal began Tuesday, UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura praised Putin's move as "a significant — I repeat, a significant — development."

Watch also U.S., Russia to set mechanism for Syria ceasefire violations - Kerry

"We hope, and we shall be expecting and hoping that this will be happening, that we will be seeing this decision bringing some positive influence on the actual progress of the talks," he said.

The partial withdrawal of Russian forces — the key international backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad — was seen to weaken Assad's negotiating position and likely make his government more inclined to compromise with the opposition.

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