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Kerry announces fresh Syria talks with Russia

The United States’ top diplomat has pushed for an American proposal to reinstate a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria. In exchange for Russia’s support, Washington would provide Moscow with intelligence on rebel groups.

US Secretary of John Kerry on Friday announced he would meet with his Russian counterpart in the coming days to discuss an American proposal that aims to bolster a ceasefire in Syria and streamline the fight against militant groups.

“The president of the United States has authorized and ordered this track,” Kerry told reporters.

“It is the president’s desire to test whether or not the Russians are prepared to do what they said during our negotiations in Moscow that they will do,” he added.

The proposal would require Damascus to cease attacks against US-backed opposition groups.

In exchange, Russia would receive intelligence from Washington to target militant groups operating in the country, including the self-styled “Islamic State” and al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, despite skepticism from US military and intelligence officials.

Last week, Kerry held marathon talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concerning the proposal.

“We’re going to test this very carefully based not on trust, based on specific steps,” Kerry said, referring to the talks in Moscow. “So far, it is showing a modicum of promise which, hopefully, we can complete.”

‘Resolve them’

Moscow, a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, joined the five-year conflict last September when it launched an aerial campaign against alleged “terrorists.”

However, Russia has come under international scrutiny for targeting rebel-held areas in the country, including hospitals run in opposition zones.

“In the event there are brackets around certain things or issues that are not resolved by the current discussions, he and I will have to resolve them,” Kerry said, referring to anticipated talks with Lavrov in Laos.

The conflict erupted in 2011 when Syrian government forces launched a violent crackdown against peaceful protesters calling for Assad to step down.

At least 280,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced by the bitter conflict.

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