Kerry announces fresh talks with Russia on Syria

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference at The State Department on July 21, 2016, in Washington, DC.
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at a press conference at The State Department on July 21, 2016, in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

VIENNA (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday (July 22) announced he would hold talks on the war in Syria with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a regional summit next week in Laos.

"I think our next meeting will be on the side of the meeting in Asia. I'll see him in Asia (...) Laos," Kerry told reporters in Vienna.

Kerry will attend the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Vientiane with top diplomats from Russia and China also flying in to the communist nation from Sunday.

Russia and the United States back opposing sides in Syria's five-year war, which has left 280,000 people dead and forced half the population to flee their homes.

Multiple rounds of international negotiations to end the war, which erupted in 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad's regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against a pro-democracy revolt, have so far failed.

"We would take stock of where our negotiation is," Kerry said.

"It's - in the event there are brackets around certain things or issues that are not resolved by the current discussions, he and I will have to resolve them," he added.

Kerry held marathon talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov in Moscow last week, striking an agreement on "concrete steps" to salvage a failing truce and tackle militant groups in Syria.

Damascus-backer Russia and the United States, which supports moderate rebels seeking to unseat Assad, co-chair a 22-member contact group working to end the war in Syria.

A ceasefire they brokered in February - which did not include the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group or Al-Nusra - has since all but collapsed amid continued heavy fighting.

US President Barack Obama has insisted on keeping dialogue with Moscow open on Syria, Kerry said.

"The president of the United States has authorised and ordered this track," he said.