KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet for a second time in three days on Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who has been trying to bring about a rapprochement between Syria and regional states to forge an alliance to fight Islamic State militants.
Kerry and Lavrov would “discuss a range of issues of mutual concern” at the meeting in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, a senior official of the U.S. State Department said without elaborating.
Kerry, in Malaysia for meetings of the Association of South East Asian Nations, held trilateral talks with Lavrov and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the war in Syria in Qatar on Monday.
Russia has been trying to bring about rapprochement between the Syrian government and regional states including Saudi Arabia and Turkey to forge an alliance to fight Islamic State militants who have taken large amounts of territory in Syria’s civil war.
Kerry met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday afternoon.
At the beginning of their meeting, Cavusoglu was asked by a reporter when there would be an effective moderate Syrian opposition force in a buffer zone in northern Syria that Turkey and the United States aim to establish.
“Now we are training and equipping the moderate opposition together with the United States, and we will also start our fight against Daesh very effectively soon,” he said, referring to Islamic State.
“Then the ground will be safer for the moderate opposition that are fighting Daesh on the ground.”
A senior State Department official said that at the Qatar meeting Kerry, Jubeir and Lavrov “acknowledged the need for a political solution to the conflict and the important role to be played by opposition groups in reaching that solution”.
In calling for wider international cooperation to fight Islamic State, Russia says gains on the ground by the ultra-radical jihadist group meant even those who oppose Assad should now join ranks with Damascus to fight the common enemy.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that the formation of a “wide anti-terrorist front” had been one of the main themes of the Kerry-Lavrov-Jubeir talks.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Tehran on Tuesday for talks with officials from Iran and Russia that were expected to focus on efforts to end the civil war.
Iran and Russia have stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing military and financial support during more than four years of conflict. The United States and some of its Gulf Arab allies have said Assad must leave office.
World powers led by the United States reached a nuclear agreement with Iran on July 14 but both sides have made it clear that the deal will not change their policies in the region.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Robert Birsel