Despite upbeat talk from US and Russian officials yesterday on Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Moscow, all is not well between Russia and Western nations on the question of Syria, and Friday’s talks in New York are likely to include the same arguing as ever.
Though Kerry claimed yesterday that the US and Russia had identical views on Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry today confirmed that this was not the case, and that there remain “serious differences” between the US view of post-war Syria and Russia’s.
The big difference between the two historically has been whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be allowed to run for office after the war, with US officials saying he needs to be excluded. Though Kerry suggested some wiggle room on that yesterday, it’s not totally clear if the US has abandoned its demand for regime change.
Britain also seems to be aggressively condemning Russia going into these talks, with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accusing Russia of “helping ISIS” because so many of their airstrikes are targeting al-Qaeda and other factions that aren’t ISIS. Hammond insisted every attack that isn’t on ISIS is “unhelpful,” even though the US too has been bombing al-Qaeda in Syria at times.