Moscow and Washington have made a joint call for Syria’s regime and rebels to agree to ceasefires in parts of their battle-scarred country ahead of peace talks this month.
During Monday’s meeting in Paris, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that President Bashar Al-Assad was willing to open aid access to devastated areas.
The United States and Russia called for the ceasefires to start ahead of the so-called Geneva II talks due to begin in Montreux on January 22.
“We talked today about the possibility of trying to encourage a ceasefire. Maybe a localised ceasefire in Aleppo,” said John Kerry, the US secretary of state, after the meeting.
The discussions, attended by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, also included the possibility of a prisoner exchange between the warring sides.
It was a rare pulling together of two heavyweights in the Syrian crisis, which has seen the US backing the opposition as Moscow sticks by longtime ally Assad.
The two countries, however, continued to disagree on Iran’s participation in the talks, with Kerry saying Tehran needs to accept plans for a transitional government if it wants to take part.
Kerry said that the process in Geneva to end the crisis was going to be difficult, but that it had to begin right away.
Kerry said Lavrov had told him the Assad government was also prepared to open certain areas up for humanitarian access, including the besieged area of East Ghouta.
“We expect similar steps from the opposition,” Lavrov said.
The Syrian foreign minister, Walid Muallem, is set to arrive in Moscow on Friday ahead of the Geneva II talks, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Political analyst Kamel Wazne told Al Jazeera that Iran and Saudi Arabia had to sit down at the same table if the conflict was going to end.
“There’s a lot of positive things to come out of this. Finally, the Americans and Russians are on one page, they both want the end of the war in the Middle East, but Russia and US alone is not enough,” he said.
“I think it is very crucial for the Iranians to be at the same table. It is the conflict between Saudi and Iran which is the issue at this point.
“Right now there is an open war in Lebanon, in Syria, in Yemen. Those two forces have to make peace or they go to war.”
About two dozen nations plan to send foreign ministers to a daylong gathering on January 22 at a Montreux hotel.
The peace talks will then start on January 24 at the UN’s headquarters in Geneva with meetings between Assad’s delegation and Syrian opposition groups.
The meetings will be moderated by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria.