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Kerry: 'Provisional agreement' could lead to Syria cease-fire

Feb. 21, 2016 at 10:49 AM
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AMMAN, Jordan, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Talks between the U.S. and Russia announced Sunday could lead to a temporary truce within days in the Syrian civil war.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry spoke Sunday morning with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the second day in a row on a "provisional agreement in principal" and the final details will be settled in a phone call between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, The Washington Post reports.

Kerry said it will be up to Russia to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to agree to the conditions and the U.S. will have to get all major opposition groups on board to push for peace talks. Once that is done, a temporary cease-fire is possible, he said.

The "path to peace" in Syria is "actually right in front of us now," Kerry said, but it didn't come soon enough to save scores of people killed just hours earlier by two explosions in a Syrian town, Voice of America reported.

Those blasts killed 46 and wounded dozens more, according to activists with the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who are monitoring the situation. The group said the explosions hit the pro-government neighborhood of al-Zahraa killing mostly civilians.

The group reported that the blasts were among the largest to hit the neighborhood in five years of civil war.

Saying the negotiations had gotten all sides "closer to a cease-fire today" than at any time previously, Kerry called the Syrian civil war a "humanitarian catastrophe" that can't be resolved with any alliance with the Syrian president.

The secretary of state gave no details on the potential cease-fire but said it will be up to Russia to get al-Assad and Iran to agree to the conditions.

"We are giving life to what was promised in Munich," Kerry said at a short news conference, referring to a Feb. 12 agreement for a "cessation of hostilities" within one week, a deadline that lapsed Friday. "We are filling out the details."

Syria has reportedly set preconditions that would make it difficult to join a cease-fire. Opposition groups said over they agree to a temporary cease-fire only if Russia, Iran and a number of militias stop attacking them.

They also demanded that attacks stop against al-Nusra Front, a group with ties to al-Qaida that the United Nations and the United States consider a terrorist group that should be excluded from any cease-fire.

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