John Kerry to Discuss Syria Strategy with Russian Counterpart Sergei Lavrov

Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images
Joshua LOTT/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet in Vienna Friday to discuss Syria before they both meet with Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“The US, Saudis and Turks will want to see what Russia will put on the table,” explained Julien Barnes-Dacey of the European Council on Foreign Relations. “But I think it will be one of those occasions when everyone goes hoping that the other side will back down. I am sceptical [sic] that it will lead to an opening.”

Kerry hopes to discuss “real and tangible options that could perhaps reignite a political process and bring about a political transition in Syria.” Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s largest ally. The Kremlin still insists the only future for Syria is one with Assad in power.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s enemies. Lavrov attempted to persuade both countries to side with Assad to defeat the radical Islamic groups, such as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in Syria. Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Assad must go, the same point he reiterated in New York at the UN.

“A key reason behind the emergence of Islamic State was the actions of Assad who directed his arms at his nation, not Islamic State,” declared Jubeir. “Assad is part of the problem, not part of the solution to the Syrian crisis… There is no place for Assad in the future of Syria.”

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç said the NATO country is already participating in one coalition in Syria.

“The international community already conducts a battle against Daesh [ISIL],” stated Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tanju Bilgiç. “Turkey is part of an international coalition and provides concrete support to these efforts. Apart from that, we don’t have any other methods or plan in our agenda concerning the struggle against Daesh.”

The Turkish government mentioned they are ready “to accept a political transition in Syria” where Assad stays for six months before someone else takes over on the day Assad visited Moscow. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu made a bolder remark on Wednesday challenging the notion that Turkey would like to see a transition process, openly hoping Assad would remain in Russia and never return to Syria.

“We think the Syrian government has no legitimacy left and our thoughts on this subject have not changed. … There must be a transition in Syria which secures Assad’s departure,” he said. “Russia has already openly displayed its support with its intervention. What can I say. If only he would stay longer in Moscow so the Syrian people can be at ease, or if only he could stay there permanently and a real transition period could begin.”