US and Russia to push for Syria peace talks

US and Russian officials  have agreed on the need to convene a Syrian peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible, following talks in Washington DC.

John Kerry, US secretary of state, hosted his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on Friday, amid mounting tension between the two nations over Syria, spying and other issues.

Lavrov said the five hours of security talks were very positive and the parties would meet again by the end of the month to prepare for a Geneva conference between Syria's government and rebel opposition.

Their talks came two days after US President Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as tensions between the nations were exacerbated by Moscow's decision to grant asylum to spy whistleblower Edward Snowden, and differing policies on the Syrian civil war.

Kerry said: "One thing I would emphasise is that while Sergey and I do not always agree completely on responsibility for the bloodshed, or on some of the ways forward, both of us in our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and dissent into chaos the ultimate anser is a negotiated political solution."

Lavrov echoed Kerry in stressing the need to get Syria's government and opposition talking in Geneva, at a conference they referred to as "Geneva 2", after the first planned conference collapsed.

Lavrov said that he believed the Snowden case should not affect "mainstream" US-Russia relations. "Edward Snowden did not overshadow our discussions,"  he said.

Before his meeting, Kerry said: "This meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement.

"We will discuss these differences today, for certain, but this meeting remains important above and beyond the collisions and the moments of disagreement.

"Both of us and our countries agree that to avoid institutional collapse and descent into chaos, the ultimate answer is a negotiated political solution,'' he said, in reference to Syria.

Chuck Hagel, US defence secretary, and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Shoiguheld, talks earlier on Friday, agreeing to work to expand military co-operation.

UNDERSTANDING THE SYRIA CONFLICT