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US, Russia Urging Cease-Fire in Syria Ahead of Talks


US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and U.N-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, center, before the start of their joint news at the US Ambassador's residence in Paris, France, Jan. 13, 2014.
The United States and Russia want to encourage a cease-fire in Syria, beginning in the battered city of Aleppo, in an effort to set the stage for successful peace talks between the country's warring sides.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi met Monday in Paris, where they also discussed the possibility of prisoner exchanges and allowing expanded humanitarian access.

Kerry said he hopes the conference set to open next week will begin to bring an end to the "unspeakable conflict" that has raged in Syria for nearly three years.

He said success would be a "good beginning" to the negotiations between the Syrian government and rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad, and not necessarily a final agreement.

Kerry reiterated that it is up to the opposing sides in Syria to come to an agreement and ultimately the Syrian people to decide on the political future of their country.

The stated goal of the so-called Geneva 2 conference is to negotiate a transitional government for Syria.

Assad's government has said it will attend, while the main opposition Syrian National Coalition says it will decide by the end of the week whether it will participate in the talks set to begin January 22. Kerry said Sunday he is confident the opposition will attend.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.
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