PARIS - With the August 1 target date for the Syrian political transition approaching, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov early next week on the sidelines at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Vientiane, Laos.
“I think our next meeting will be on the side of the meeting in Asia. I’ll see him in Asia,” said Kerry during a roundtable meeting Friday with traveling press.
Earlier this week, Kerry said the U.S. and Russia had planned "concrete steps" for the direction they would take in Syria.
“We’re going to test this very carefully, based not on trust, based on specific steps, and we are talking about those steps right now,” said Kerry, adding that so far “it is proceeding constructively and with progress.”
Those steps include bolstering the cessation of hostilities and strengthening the fight against Islamic State militants, as well as the al-Nusra Front.
Various reports indicated Washington sent a proposal to Moscow to share information about specific targets to strike in Syria. Such a plan faces pushback from the Pentagon and the intelligence community.
Opponents say the U.S. is not seeking information from Russia in return, and they assert that Moscow eventually would exploit any agreement to bolster the regime, while weakening Syria’s beleaguered rebel fighters.
“But that’s absurd. That’s just not true," said Kerry. "I mean, you think grounding [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad is not asking something back?”