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NATO Chief Welcomes 'First Step' On Syria, Urges 'More Constructive' Russian Role

MUNICH -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has welcomed an agreement for a cessation of hostilities in Syria but indicated there was no promise from Russia to stop its bombing campaign.

Stoltenberg spoke to reporters after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on February 12.

He said the cessation of hostilities agreement reached by powers overnight "has to be a first step" toward a "lasting cease-fire" and that "the important thing now is to see it implemented on the ground."

Stoltenberg did not answer directly when asked whether Lavrov had vowed to stop Russian air strikes, which he said have mainly been directed not at Islamic State (IS) militants but against the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

He said he would welcome "a more constructive role by Russia" in fighting IS.

But Lavrov has been quoted since the cessation deal's announcement as saying that "the truce does not apply to terrorists...[and] the military operation against them will be continued."

Stoltenberg also said he and Lavrov had discussed efforts to convene a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, after a hiatus of more than a year, but had not reached agreement.

He said that, for NATO, it is essential that such a meeting address Ukraine, because Russia's actions there are the reason that ties between NATO and Russia are tense.

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