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Kerry, Lavrov Start Crucial Syria Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov started talks late Thursday in Geneva aimed at getting Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons arsenal.

Speaking before the evening meeting, Kerry said he hopes diplomacy can avoid a possible U.S. strike on Syria for the alleged role of Syrian government forces in a chemical weapons attack last month outside Damascus.

Kerry said that while the U.S. and Russia disagree on who was at fault "there is much we agree on" including that civilians died in the attack and that chemical weapons are a threat in the Syria conflict.

Kerry added it is too soon to tell if diplomacy will work but that the U.S. is serious in its efforts.
Lavrov said he believes the United States wants to find a consensus with Russia.



He also referred to an opinion piece by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the New York Times newspaper in which Mr. Putin warned the United States against conducting military strikes against the Assad government, a longtime Russian ally.

Kerry disputed a comment by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Syria can wait one month to provide information about its chemical stockpiles after joining a U.N. convention banning their use.

Mr. Assad made the claim in an interview with Russian television broadcast Thursday, saying the one-month period is standard. Kerry said "there is nothing standard" about the current situation.

A U.N. spokesman said the world body received a letter from Syria on Thursday to start the disarmament process of filing documents towards joining the international convention.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he hopes the Kerry - Lavrov meeting will "yield a concrete result."

U.S. officials have said securing and destroying the Syrian weapons is possible but "difficult and complicated."

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