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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Obstacles Remain as US, Russia Work to Finalize Syria Cease-Fire Deal

By William Ide September 04, 2016 9:01 AM

The United States and Russia are working to finalize a cease-fire deal for Syria that would allow more humanitarian aid into the war-ravaged country, as world leaders meet in Hangzhou China for the Group of 20 Nations Leaders Summit.

The two countries appeared to be closing in a possible deal, but obstacles remain. There are hopes that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin will have a chance to talk informally on the sidelines of the G-20 meetings. But so far, nothing has been arranged.

"We have grave differences with the Russians in terms of both the parties we support but also the process that is required to bring about peace in Syria," Obama told reporters Sunday.

A State Department official said Russia walked back on some of the areas the U.S. thought were agreed on by both parties.

Russian President Putin is quoted as saying the Syrian conflict can only be resolved through political means.

Moscow has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the United States has worked with moderate opposition forces fighting Assad.

"But if we do not get some buy-in from the Russians on reducing the violence and easing the humanitarian crisis, then it's difficult to see how we get to the next phase," said Obama.

Kerry-Lavrov meeting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss Syria Sunday and the two will meet again Monday.

"It's fair to say that out of the review I think there are a couple of tough issues that we talked about today," Kerry told reporters after the meeting, but declined to give details. "We will meet tomorrow morning and see whether or not it is possible to bridge the gap and come to a conclusion on these couple of issues."

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the two sides are close to a deal and that they are talking about the most serious issues of implementing a cease-fire. "The most intense work is continuing," Ryabkov said. "Until we lay the last brick... We can't say that the results have been achieved."

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 250,000 people, displaced 11 million and led to a refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe.

The conflict is also contributing to a rise in militant Islamist groups. U.S. and Russian military officials have been meeting for weeks to try and work out the terms of the deal. Previous cease-fire agreements have failed to last for long as both back opposite sides in the five-year war.

State Deparment correpondent Steve Herman contributed to this report.

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