The United States and Russia will share intelligence on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq and work together to combat the threat of terrorism that hangs over the region, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Tuesday after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
After three hours of talks in Paris, Kerry said Russia has agreed to “explore” whether to provide more weapons to Iraqi security forces fighting Islamist extremists, as well as to train and advise them.
The two top diplomats also discussed how to keep Iran’s nuclear program from being converted to military use.
“We are deeply committed to the diplomatic effort to try to reach an agreement that assures the international community of the fact that the Iranian nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” said Kerry, who is to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday in Vienna as a Nov. 24 deadline to finalize an agreement looms.
The U.S.-Russian willingness to work jointly on the two fronts was the first sign of a thaw after seven months of grinding dispute over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Kerry’s language was conciliatory, stressing areas in which the two nations can cooperate despite their deep differences.
Although Russia recently withdrew some troops from its border with Ukraine, Kerry said Western economic sanctions will not be lifted unless Russia pulls back its heavy weaponry from the frontier and allows observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor and secure the border.
He said another precondition is the release of all prisoners held amid the conflict. He specifically cited the case of Nadiya Savchenko, a helicopter navigator who turned into a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after she was detained by pro-Moscow separatists in a firefight in eastern Ukraine and ended up in a Russian prison.