NICOSIA, Cyprus - Secretary of State John Kerry came to this divided island nation Thursday and expressed hopes that peace talks will soon reunify it, serving as a model for other embattled countries in the region.

"In recent months it has become clear that the ground really is shifting and tangible progress is being made," Kerry said after meeting with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders Thursday evening.

"Not only will a just comprehensive and lasting solution for Cyprus have an enormously positive impact on the island, it will lift up the entire region."

Kerry did not specifically cite Syria on the other side of the Mediterranean, but it was clearly on his mind.

While attending a meeting at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Belgrade earlier in the day, Kerry laid out an optimistic scenario in which Islamic State militants could be defeated quickly if peace talks prove successful. Kerry and other Western diplomats are pushing for talks that would form the basis for eventually ushering Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

"If we get a political transition in place, we empower every nation and every entity to come together - the Syrian army together with the opposition, together with all the surrounding countries, together with Russia, the United States and others - to go and fight Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. "Just imagine how quickly this scourge could be eliminated - in a matter of literally months - if we were able to secure that kind of political resolution."

Kerry said that it will take ground troops to dislodge the group that has established its own caliphate, but he stipulated they would be Arab armies, not U.S. or other Western forces.

Though Kerry previously has laid out the broad outlines of the underlying vision, it is the first time he has said he thought it could lead to the demise of the Islamic State in a relatively short time frame.