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Russia, US agree to push both Syria sides to end conflict

Russia and the United States agreed at top-level talks on Tuesday to push both the Syrian regime and rebels to find a political solution to their conflict and to hold an international peace conference, the Russian foreign minister said.

“We agreed that Russia and the United States will encourage both the Syria government and opposition groups to find a political solution,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with US counterpart John Kerry in Moscow.

Lavrov added they agreed on the need to try to hold “as soon as possible” an international conference on Syria to convince both sides to accept the terms of the Geneva accord agreed by world powers in June last year for a peaceful solution in Syria.

He said if possible the conference should take place by the end of this month.

The Geneva agreement, which was reached by world powers on June 30, set out a path toward a transitional government without ever spelling out what President Bashar al-Assad’s fate should be.

The accord was never implemented because the temporary ceasefire for which it also called was never put in place.

“We believe that the Geneva communique is the important track to end the bloodshed in Syria,” said Kerry, describing the agreement as a roadmap to a “new Syria”.

Kerry hailed a “very productive, very warm and friendly discussion” with President Vladimir Putin earlier which he said “has contributed significantly to our ability to map a road ahead.”

Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s belief that the departure of Assad should not be a precondition for peace talks while insisting Moscow was not propping him up in power.

“We are not concerned by the fate of any individual. We are concerned by the fate of the Syrian people,” said Lavrov.