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World powers seek progress on Syria cease-fire, humanitarian aid

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.38.49The five-year-old war in Syria is the focus of diplomats Tuesday in Vienna where the 17-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG) is meeting to discuss stalled political talks, difficulties in maintaining a cease-fire deal and uneven U.N. results in delivering humanitarian aid.

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The cease-fire, which went into effect at the end of February, brought a dramatic drop in overall violence in Syria, but that progress has slowly eroded.

“Today is about creating the conditions to better comply with the cease-fire,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, heading into talks. He said another goal would be improving conditions on the ground in Syria so that the opposition would be more inclined to participate in political talks.

The United States and Russia are trying to use their influence to convince competing sides to stand by the agreement as they also try to support peace talks that have so far made little progress.

Both countries are part of the ISSG. But while Russia has backed the Syrian regime, the U.S. has been supporting the moderate opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met Monday to discuss Syria’s crisis. Russia’s Interfax news agency said a need to cut off “terrorists’” supply routes between the Syrian-Turkish border was among issues discussed.

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