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US, Russia near agreement on stopping Syria's bloody conflict

Rebels push toward Damascus airport as US contractors reportedly train Syrian rebels on chemical weapons security.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, watches as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (back to camera) arrives for a group photo at the OSCE conference in Dublin on December 6, 2012. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

After months of failed talks, Russia and the US appear closer than ever to reaching an agreement on how to stop Syria’s civil war.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met on Thursday in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with all sides proclaiming progress.

“We reviewed the very dangerous developments inside Syria,” Clinton said, according to the Associated Press. “And both Minister Lavrov and I committed to supporting a new push by Brahimi and his team to work with all the stakeholders in Syria to begin a political transition.”

Russia, a member of the UN Security Council, has long tried to shield Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from previous efforts to force him from power.

However, recent comments from Russia appear to illustrate a growing frustration about the situation coming from Moscow, Reuters reported.

“We have shared and continue to share the opinion that the existing government in Syria should carry out its functions, but time has shown that this task is beyond its strength,” said Vladimir Vasiliyev, leader of President Vladimir Putin’s party.

The Russia-US agreement comes as rebels push toward the Syrian capital of Damascus and its airport, which on Friday they described as a "legitimate target," the AP reported.

More from GlobalPost: Syria calls chemical weapons reports a Western conspiracy

Rebels told the AP that they consider cutting off Assad’s supply chain via the airport a realistic goal.

“This would send a very strong political message to the regime, it will be a moral victory, to say the least,” one rebel told the AP. “The battle to cut off the regime supplies from the airport has started.”

American involvement in Syria continues to evolve, with reports Friday that the US and its allies are training Syrian rebels in chemical weapons security. The blog Syria Deeply says it received confirmation of the training from four diplomats, including a US official.

Defense contractors are also holding training sessions in Turkey and Jordan with rebels, Syria Deeply said. Syria is believed to be the Middle East country with the most chemical weapons, according to the blog.

More from GlobalPost: US may label Syrian opposition a terrorist group

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/121207/us-russia-syria-agreement-clinton-lavrov-belfast