Lavrov, Kerry hold phone talks on securing Syria ceasefire

AFP , Friday 1 Apr 2016

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Friday with US Secretary of State John Kerry about measures that could be taken to strengthen the fragile ceasefire in Syria, the Russian ministry said.

The two top diplomats discussed taking "concrete measures aimed at strengthening the ceasefire process in Syria" which was established in late February and has generally been holding, the foreign ministry statement said in a statement.

The measures would include steps to improve access to humanitarian aid and to fight against acts of terrorism in the country.

The telephone conversation between Lavrov and Kerry "took place on April 1 at the Americans' initiative," the statement added.

Lavrov also reiterated Russia's call to close the Turkish-Syrian border which Moscow says is "actively used" to send Islamist fighters to Syria via Turkey.

This issue calls for "agreement on the necessary actions as quickly as possible, including via the UN Security Council," the statement said.

Russia has repeatedly accused Turkey of backing Islamist groups opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's ally in the five-year war.

The ceasefire reached in late February, led by Russia and the United States, is between the Assad regime and the rebels but does not include the jihadist groups Islamic State and the Al-Nusra Front.

UN-led talks on a peace deal are due to resume in Geneva soon, but the sides are deadlocked over the fate of Assad, whom the opposition insists must leave power before a transitional government is agreed.

Assad has said that any transitional government should include both the regime and opposition, without specifying which opposition groups should take part.

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