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U.S., Russia want Syrian draft constitution by August

By Amy R. Connolly
U.S., Russia want Syrian draft constitution by August
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin sit face-to-face to discuss the Syrian ceasefire and the future of the war-torn country. Photo from John Kerry/Twitter

MOSCOW, March 25 (UPI) -- The United States and Russia agreed to strengthen the Syrian cease-fire, increase humanitarian aid and push for a new constitution for the war-torn country by August.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, after four hours of talks at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the cease-fire that began Feb. 27 was not long lasting and needed improvement. They agreed to encourage the Syrian government and rebel forces to a peaceful political transition. However, the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains a sticking point.

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Kerry arrived in Russia about two weeks after Putin pulled back Russia's military forces from Syria. The United States has long called for Assad to step down, but Russia said the decision should remain in Syria's hands.

"Russia will have to speak for itself about what it is going to choose to do in order to help Mr. Assad make the right decisions," Kerry said after the meeting. "But we agreed today that we will accelerate the effort to try to move the political process forward."

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, also at the meeting, said there was an agreement to push the Assad regime into "direct talks."

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"As the immediate task, we have agreed to push for the soonest start of direct talks between the government delegations and the whole spectrum of the opposition" that will help to create "a transitional governance structure" for Syria, he said.

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