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Russian plans to broker a ceasefire agreement in Syria is “a positive development,” according to the State Department, which has been sidelined in the region in the final lame-duck stage of President Obama’s time in office.

“Any effort that stops the violence, saves lives and creates the conditions for renewed and productive political negotiations would be welcome,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Thursday. “The international community hopes this ceasefire will hold so a Syrian-led transition toward a more representative, united and peaceful government can begin.”

Russia and Iran, the chief backers of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad throughout the civil war, have been negotiating with Turkey — a NATO ally that has been supporting rebels — over a ceasefire and those talks accelerated after Assad’s regime recaptured Aleppo, a critical city for the rebellion. Secretary of State John Kerry was left out of those talks, despite his previous efforts to strike a ceasefire deal with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“I think the secretary would be the first to tell you that if not having us in the room can lead to finally a cessation of hostilities that can actually matter over a period of time and over a greater geographical area than what we’ve seen in the past, that can actually get humanitarian aid to people and can resume political talks, the secretary is perfectly fine with him not being in the room if that’s the result of this,” Toner said last week. “But it doesn’t mean he’s going to disengage or that the International Syria Support Group goes away or the other multilateral efforts that the United States has been leading are going to stop.”

The State Department called for the impending talks to take place at the United Nations. “U.N. Special Envoy de Mistura has called for renewed negotiations in Geneva, and we fully support that call,” Toner said Thursday. “An inclusive Syrian-led political process between the Syrian regime and the opposition is critical for establishing a durable settlement to this conflict.”

The Russians have other ideas. They plan to work with Mistura, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, but to host the meetings in Astana, Kazakhstan. And the talks might proceed on two tracks: Russia, Turkey, and Iran on one track and talks between Assad and opposition groups on the other, according to Sputnik News, a Russian-government controlled media outlet.

Russia remains worried that the United States might help the rebel groups, however, as evidenced by a Tuesday phone call between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “As Mr. Lavrov stressed, the authorization of deliveries of man-portable air-defense systems and other weapons to anti-government units, which is included in the law on the US defense budget signed by President Barack Obama on Dec. 23, may lead to further escalation of tensions and to more victims,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a readout of the call.

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