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Kerry holds Syria, Ukraine crisis talks in Moscow

Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Tuesday as the two senior diplomats looked for ways to narrow their differences on how to end the civil war in Syria, and over the ongoing hostilities in Ukraine.

"Even when there have been differences between us, we have been able to work effectively on specific issues," Kerry said, opening the talks in the Russian capital. "Today, I hope we can find some common ground." he said.

Kerry is also meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The discussions are being held to determine whether an international conference on Syria should go ahead as planned at the United Nations on Friday.

On Syria, Washington favors a political transition that would see President Bashar Assad eventually step aside, while Moscow is adamant that only the Syrian people can make that decision. They are also at odds over how to best combat Islamic State militants in Syria.

On Ukraine, Kerry is pushing for Russia to fully abide by the terms of a February cease-fire — the Minsk agreement — in return for easing sanctions. The United States and its allies maintain that Russia is still supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, but Moscow resents what it says is the West's influence on Ukraine's government in Kiev.

"We would like to continue the dialogue," Lavrov said Tuesday. "Given the U.S. influence on Kiev, it would be a positive factor."

In January, the European Union will decide whether to renew its sanctions on Russia for its role in the conflict that the United Nations estimates has led to the deaths of at least 8,000 people.

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