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Russia, US want Syria talks 'as soon as possible'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Moscow and Washington are in agreement about the need to stage a fresh round of Syria peace talks "as soon as possible", Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.

"Our opinions are very much the same. Come what may, we need to convene the Geneva 2 meeting as soon as possible," Lavrov told reporters in Washington.

Lavrov added that US and Russian officials would meet again on the issue at the end of the month.

Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Friday amid strained relations between the former Cold War foes.

Russia, the United States and the United Nations have spent several months attempting to set up a conference on Syria aimed at arranging a political transition.

Russia is a key ally of the Syrian regime and has sought to protect it since the beginning of the conflict by blocking certain Western resolutions at the UN Security Council.

A first round of Geneva talks held in June last year ended in a stalemate with an accord laying out plans for a political transition in Syria that was never implemented.

A second round of Geneva negotiations had initially peen pencilled in for June this year, and then July, but failed to materialize amid sharp disagreements about the purpose and objectives of the negotiations.

As well as sharp differences on Syria, Russia-US relations have chilled over Moscow's decision to give US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden a temporary haven in Russia.

Speaking before Friday's talks, Kerry said he had not always seen eye-to-eye with Lavrov but both sides recognized the need for a political solution.

"Sergei and I do not always agree completely on responsibility for the bloodshed or on some of the ways forward, both of us and our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and descent into chaos, the ultimate answer is a negotiated political solution," Kerry said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130810/russia-us-want-syria-talks-soon-possible