US-Russia try to narrow Syria divisions

MOSCOW - US Secretary of State John Kerry is in Moscow for talks to try to bridge gaps with Russia over the political process to end Syria's civil war.

He is now in talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and will later meet President Vladimir Putin.

The US and Russia have long disagreed on what role Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should play in the process.

The US wants Mr Assad to stand down but Russia says only the Syrian people can decide his fate.

Ahead of the talks, the Russian foreign ministry attacked US policy, accusing Washington of "dividing terrorists into good and bad ones".

Russia has been carrying out air strikes it says target position of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, but the US accuses Russia of bombing moderate rebels to shore up its ally President Assad. Moscow denies the allegations.

A US-led coalition has been targeting IS militants in Syria since September 2014 and does not co-ordinate its raids with the authorities in Damascus.

Russia has also rejected the outcome of a meeting of Syrian opposition groups, who agreed to unite to hold peace talks but stressed President Assad could not participate in a political transition.

As the meeting with Mr Lavrov began, Mr Kerry said: "The world benefits when powerful nations can find common ground and I hope today we can find some common ground."

On Islamic State, he said Russia and the US both agreed it was "a threat to every country... these are the worst of terrorists, they leave no choice but for civilised nations to join together and push them back and destroy them".

Mr Kerry will try to prepare the ground for an international meeting on Syria mooted for later this week.

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