The Latest: Kerry and Lavrov discuss Syria cease-fire, talks

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2016 2:34 PM
The Latest: Kerry and Lavrov discuss Syria cease-fire, talks

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on Syria's conflict (all times local):

9:30 p.m.

Russia says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his American counterpart John Kerry have spoken by telephone about the process of resolving the Syrian conflict.

A Foreign Ministry statement says that in the Friday call, the two diplomats reaffirmed the intention to "further close interaction of our countries in the military sphere" in Syria.

It said the "two sides called for an early start of negotiations in Geneva under the auspices of the U.N. between the Syrian government and the whole spectrum of the opposition, during which Syrians themselves should determine the future of their country.

The statement added that the two "agreed to continue to actively promote all aspects of Syrian settlement through the International Syria Support Group, co-chaired by Russia, the U.S. and the U.N."

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9:10 p.m.

Turkey's state-run news agency says that Turkish artillery units have again hit Islamic State targets across the border in Syria.

Anadolu Agency said Friday that the military shelled a number of IS positions north of the city of Aleppo, without providing further details. It was the second Turkish artillery attack on IS since a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire went into effect last Saturday.

Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said this week that Turkey has not hit any targets other than those of the IS group, which is not part of the truce. Al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, and other militant factions designated as terrorist groups are also part of the cease-fire.

Turkey had warned ahead of the truce that it could also continue attacks on Syrian Kurdish militia if they posed a threat to its security.

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6:20 p.m.

A top Syrian opposition official says time is "not suitable" to resume peace talks next week in Geneva.

Riad Hijab, who heads the High Negotiations Committee, says that Syrian military operations are still ongoing, detainees have not been released by Damascus and little aid is entering rebel-held besieged areas.

Hijab told reporters on Friday in Paris said that it's still early to say whether the negotiations really will resume next Wednesday as U.N. envoy Syria Staffan de Mistura has planned.

He says that since the truce brokered by Syria and Russia went into effect last Saturday, more than 50 rebel-held areas have been targeted.

Hijab also reiterated the opposition's stand — that there should be no political role for Syrian President Bashar Assad and in the future or during the transitional period for Syria.

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2 p.m.

France's president says discussions about a political transition in Syria will "accelerate" with the cease-fire that has held for a week across the war-wracked country.

Francois Hollande, after speaking with the leaders of Russia, Germany, Britain and Italy, said on Friday that there was agreement to take advantage of the truce to coordinate humanitarian aid and open a process of political transition in Syria.

He did not offer a deadline or precisions.

High-level international discussions about Syria have intensified since the nearly week-old cease-fire went into effect, although it does not include fighters from the Islamic State group.

British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond, also in Paris, said the hope is that ultimately a cease-fire would allow Syria's moderate opposition and backers of the Assad government to work out a solution and fight the extremists together.

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1:50 p.m.

Denmark says it will redeploy F-16 fighter jets to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Denmark joined the mission in October 2014. In August last year, it temporarily pulled back the four operational F-16 fighter jets and three reserve jets to repair them and allow the staff to recover. Instead, they sent a mobile radar unit.

After a meeting Friday with Parliament's foreign affairs committee, Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said the country will send 400 people including air force personnel but also members of a special operations unit.

It wasn't immediately clear when the jets will be redeployed. Parliament will vote to approve the mission in April.

Loekke Rasmussen said the alliance must fight with great force the Islamic State group "that unscrupulously terrorizes and kills innocent men, women and children."

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11:20 a.m.

Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has met with the U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft to discuss the nearly week-old cease-fire in Syria.

The Russian foreign ministry wrote in an online statement that Bodganov and Tefft met on Thursday evening at Tefft's invitation to discuss a range of issues relating to the U.S.-Russian brokered cease-fire. The ministry did not elaborate on the officials' conversation.

On Thursday, Bogdanov also met with a Syrian opposition leader, Qadri Jamil, to discuss resuming Syrian peace talks at the United Nations in the near future.

Previously, the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said he hopes peace talks will resume in early March.