Secretary of State John Kerry has made his third phone call to his Russian counterpart in 10 days seeking to clarify the intent of Moscow’s military buildup in Syria. Kerry warns that continued support for President Bashar Assad will only prolong the Syrian conflict. A State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kerry called Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov about Syria on Tuesday.
The Obama administration has been perplexed by Russia’s ramped up support for Assad, which includes about a half dozen battle tanks delivered in recent days. Kerry’s call came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his military assistance to Assad’s government. Putin said it is impossible to defeat the Islamic State group without cooperating with Damascus, and he urged other countries to join the cause.