Updated on September 18 at 12:54 p.m. ET
The United States is ready to start talking to Russia about Syria.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday during his trip to London that the Obama administration wants to engage in military-to-military talks with Moscow about its recent military buildup inside Syria. Russia had offered to begin the conversation, according to the Associated Press.
“The president believes that a military-to-military conversation is an important next step, and I think, hopefully, it will take place very shortly,” Kerry said.
Shortly after those comments, the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Ash Carter had a “constructive conversation” with Sergei Shoygu, the Russian defense minister, on the situation in Syria. Here’s more:
The secretary and the minister talked about areas where the United States and Russia's perspectives overlap and areas of divergence. They agreed to further discuss mechanisms for deconfliction in Syria and the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) campaign. The secretary emphasized the importance of pursuing such consultations in parallel with diplomatic talks that would ensure a political transition in Syria. He noted that defeating ISIL and ensuring a political transition are objectives that need to be pursued at the same time. Both the secretary and the minister agreed to continue their dialogue.
Earlier this month, Kerry called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to inquire about U.S. intelligence reports that suggested Moscow was sending troops to Syria. A week later, Israel’s defense chief said several Russian forces had arrived there for the purpose of fighting Islamic State militants. The movements put U.S. officials on edge. Russia is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and has supplied his government with weapons throughout the course of the country’s five-year-long civil war. Russia’s relationship with the U.S., meanwhile, has been frosty since last spring.