Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, with US officials saying the focus will be on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his potential role in any political transition.
The US and Russia have both talked up the idea of a political transition in recent weeks, though the US had up until now insisted Assad had to unconditionally go for any deal to be possible, while Russia has opposed any exclusions on who can run in post-transition elections.
While the US occasionally hints at the chance for compromise ahead of talks like this, historically they have ended with Kerry et al back to the pre-talks position, and condemning Russia for not simply accepting the long-standing US position.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, says they believe the US needs to rethink its entire Syria policy, and its misguided attempts at “dividing terrorists into good and bad ones.” Though Russia has supported the inclusion of secular rebels in the transition, the Syrian government has so far rejected the involvement of all armed factions, complicating the matter greatly.
There have been some formal efforts among the nations involved in the Vienna talks to actually settle on which rebels are “legitimate” and which are “terrorists,” but so far they have not resolved the matter. This was to be a prelude to inviting those legitimate factions to peace talks.