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Kerry, Lavrov to Meet on Syria, Ukraine

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands during a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 15, 2015.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have agreed to meet for talks on Syria and Ukraine Wednesday in Zurich.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday Lavrov and Kerry agreed to meet after speaking by telephone.

The Russian foreign ministry said Kerry and Lavrov were talking "on the instructions of the Russian and U.S. presidents" after Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama spoke by telephone Wednesday about the crises in Syria and Ukraine.

Multi-party talks on Syria due to start January 25 in Geneva have been thrown into doubt by a diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia, a majority Sunni Muslim state, and mainly Shi'ite Iran after Riyadh executed a Saudi Shi'ite cleric, sparking a mob attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Riyadh and Gulf states then accused Iran of fomenting division via Shi'ite populations in their countries.

"On Ukraine, the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov both underscored the importance of full implementation of Minsk Agreement by all parties," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, adding "they agreed to continue this dialogue that they have had and to meet more specifically in Zurich on the 20th of this month. “

Kerry met Thursday with Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir in London.

Kerry told reporters, "We are in complete agreement about the need to try to resolve the crisis in Syria. We will continue to work on that."

The secretary of state added that he wanted to see a "stable, secure and prosperous region" free of conflict, where "countries do not interfere in the affairs of other countries."

Saudi Arabia has organized a coalition of rebel groups to represent the opposition, although the Syrian government has questioned who should be on the list.

In December, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing a peace process to end the nearly five-year war in Syria, without touching on the contentious issue of the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.