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Kerry, Lavrov call for local ceasefire in Syria

The US and Russia are discussing ceasefire areas in Syria, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday, as the two country remain divided on inviting Iran to the so-called "Geneva II" peace talks set for January 22 in the Swiss town of Montreux.

Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and UN-Arab League joint envoy on Syria Lakhdar Brahimi on Monday to discussed in French capital Paris details of the upcoming international peace conference which is aimed negotiating a settlement to Syria's civil war.

"We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire. Maybe a localized ceasefire in Aleppo and exchange of prisoners, delivering humanitarian aid to Syria," Kerry said.

Aleppo, Syria's second city, has been a major battlefield between the regime and the opposition. Representation from opposition forces remain another key challenge in the run-up to the meeting.

Humanitarian aid

Lavrov said in a press conference that Russia would like to see Saudi Arabia and Iran participate in the peace conference. He calls both 'critical countries’ in the region.

Kerry objects to the Iran’s direct participation, saying Tehran supports "terrorist" groups in Syria.

The US cites Iran’s failure to endorse a set of principles issued after the first Geneva peace conference in June 2012 -- based on a Syrian future sans Bashar al-Assad -- as reason that it should not participate.

The US accuses Iran of backing the Hezbollah, a key ally of the embattled Syrian leader.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov whose government backs Assad, said Damascus had indicated it might provide access for humanitarian aid to besieged areas. He specifically cited the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, where 160,000 people have been trapped by fighting, according to the United Nations.

Last year in August, the suburban area witnessed a deadly chemical gas attack that killed 1,500 people. Syrian rebel groups have said the Syrian military carried out the poison gas attack, an accusation Syrian government has rejected.

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