US accepting Russia's demand on Assad

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MOSCOW (AP) — The United States and Russia are moving closer to putting aside years of disagreement over how to end Syria's civil war.

Secretary of State John Kerry today accepted Russia's long-standing demand that the future of Syria's Bashar Assad be determined by his own people. After meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Kerry told reporters that the U.S. and its partners "are not seeking so-called regime change."

He announced that a major international conference on Syria will take place later this week in New York.

Kerry reiterated the U.S. position that Assad -- who is accused by the West of massive human rights violations and chemical weapons attacks -- won't be able to steer Syria out of four and a-half years of conflict.

But after a day of discussions with Assad's key international backer, Kerry said the focus now is "not on our differences about what can or cannot be done immediately about Assad." Rather, he said, it is on facilitating a peace process in which "Syrians will be making decisions for the future of Syria."

%@AP Links

151-a-07-(Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to reporters during meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin)-"significant difference here"-Secretary of State John Kerry says America and Russia can help broker a Syrian cease-fire -- if they coordinate closely. (15 Dec 2015)

<<CUT *151 (12/15/15)££ 00:07 "significant difference here"

152-a-13-(Russian President Vladimir Putin, through an interpreter, speaking to reporters during meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry)-"the Syrian one"-Russian President Vladimir Putin says through an interpreter that this meeting builds on his latest talk -- last week -- with President Obama. (15 Dec 2015)

<<CUT *152 (12/15/15)££ 00:13 "the Syrian one"

APPHOTO MOS102: US Secretary of State, John Kerry, left, and Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, shake hands after their joint press conference at the Kremlin, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 in Moscow. Earlier, in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Kerry said the world benefits when great powers agree in their approaches to major crises. (Sergei Karpukhin/Pool Photo via AP) (15 Dec 2015)

<<APPHOTO MOS102 (12/15/15)££

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