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Russia, U.S. Back Syria Diplomatic Solution

 Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrive for their meeting in Moscow on May 7.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrive for their meeting in Moscow on May 7.
Russia and the United States have announced they will encourage the rebels in Syria and Damascus government to hold talks on a political transition to end more than two years of bloodshed that has left some 70,000 dead.

The announcement was made on May 7 at a press conference in Moscow by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Kerry arrived in the Russian capital earlier in the day for two days of talks expected to focus on the crisis in Syria. It's Kerry's first trip to Russia since being named secretary of state. Earlier, Kerry met with President Vladimir Putin.

Lavrov said an international conference on Syria could be held as soon as later this month.

"We have agreed on the following: Russia and the United States will encourage both the Syrian government and the opposition groups, in order to find a political solution," Lavrov told reporters.

"We also agreed on the necessity to try as quickly as possible, even by the end of the month, to call together for an international conference that will be a follow-up of the Geneva conference that took place in June last year in Geneva."

The Geneva plan spells out steps to establish an interim government with both sides able to veto candidates found unacceptable. The plan has never gotten off the ground.

Kerry said it would be up to the Syrians to decide whether President Bashar al-Assad takes part in the process.

"It's impossible for me as an individual to understand how Syria could possibly be governed in the future by the man who has, you know, has committed the things that we know have taken place," Kerry said.

"But that's not -- I'm not going to decide that tonight, and I'm not going to decide that in the end. Because the Geneva communique says that the transitional government has to be chosen by mutual consent, by the parties."

Kerry suggested progress on a political solution in Syria could impact Washington's decision on whether to arm the rebels.

"If this kind of process can move successfully, to bring parties together and actually implement the Geneva communique, hopefully that would not be necessary. So much will depend on what happens over the course of these next weeks," he said.

Lavrov said Washington and Moscow had a common task in fighting terrorism.

"All of the problems and all of the disagreements were set aside, and we consolidated efforts to fight mutual evil. And today we have this kind of necessary task," Lavrov said.

"Terrorism, extremism and many other threats demand unification of efforts. You can't have any types of zero-sum games here."

Moscow has been a strong ally of Assad, supplying his regime with arms, and blocking sanctions against Syria at the United Nations.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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