WASHINGTON The United States said on Tuesday it was making progress with Russia on how to achieve a cessation of hostilities in Syria and held out the possibility a nationwide ceasefire need not begin immediately.
The United States had hoped over the weekend to announce an agreement to halt the fighting in the 5-1/2-year-old Syrian civil war but failed to strike an agreement with Russia.
The two powers support opposite sides in the conflict, with Moscow using its military to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Washington taking the position that Assad must go and supporting some opposition groups seeking to oust him.
"We continue to feel like we are making progress, and believe we are making progress, on some of the remaining issues, but we are not going to settle," U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at his daily briefing in Washington.
He said Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were expected to meet "very soon" but that he did not have a time or place to announce.
Toner said any agreement had to chart a clear path on how it would be implemented, and suggested that a nationwide cessation of hostilities did not have to start right away.
"What we are looking at is ... is a clear path forward to a nationwide cessation of hostilities," Toner said. "Now whether that’s going to happen overnight or whether that’s going to happen over a period of days, that’s a question to be resolved."
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by David Alexander; Editing by Eric Walsh and Peter Cooney)