MOSCOW, Dec 16 : The United States and Russia agreed to plough on with efforts to halt Syria's brutal civil war, with a fresh round of international crisis talks set for this week in New York.
After a three-hour meeting in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State John Kerry, the two sides appeared to be a step closer to each other's positions on Syria, though differences remained on the fate of President Bashar al-Assad.
In a stark reminder of the urgency of the quest -- and even as the US envoy and the Kremlin leader were meeting Tuesday -- a monitoring group said suspected Russian air strikes killed 34 Syrian civilians.
"We support the idea of convening in New York another meeting of the International Syria Support Group at the ministerial level this Friday, December 18," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the talks, which also touched on counterterrorism and Ukraine.
He and Kerry said the New York negotiations would lead to a UN Security Council resolution to underpin the process aimed at brokering a ceasefire and political talks between Assad's regime and Syria's armed opposition.
"We discussed today in great detail the need to accelerate the effort," Washington's top diplomat said.
"You can't defeat Daesh without also de-escalating the fight in Syria," he said, using another name to refer to the jihadist Islamic State group.
In Washington, State Department spokesman John Kirby predicted "the same level of activity and energy" at the New York talks as in two previous rounds among the 17 nations involved in Vienna.
Kerry and Lavrov admitted differences remained between Washington and Moscow on Assad's fate but stressed they would not let those ruin the political talks. ?AFP