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Tillerson to Hold Talks with Lavrov on Syria, Ukraine


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ahead of their bilateral meeting at the Osobnyak Guest House in Moscow, Russia, on April 12, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Washington Wednesday for talks on Syria, Ukraine and other bilateral issues.

"On Syria, the Secretary intends to discuss efforts to de-escalate violence, provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, and set the stage for a political settlement of the conflict," the State Department said in a statement Monday.

The announcement comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the U.S. will closely examine Russia's plan to establish "de-escalation" zones in Syria.

"The devil is always in the details," Mattis said Monday when asked about the initiative. "We will look at the proposal, see if it can work."

Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed to a Moscow-proposed deal last week to establish the so-called “de-escalation” zones in Syria in an effort to end the six-year conflict.

Representatives of the three Syria cease-fire guarantor nations signed a memorandum to that effect at the end of the latest round of peace talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

The proposal calls for taking measures to reduce fighting in four designated areas of Syria where rebels not associated with Islamic State terrorists control significant territory.

The initiative went into effect at midnight Friday. Russia said the zones are closed to aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition.

Moscow correspondent Dan Schearf and State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report