A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces on July 9, 2014 in the northern city of Aleppo. AFP PHOTO /AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI
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The Syrian regime and several leading dissidents have agreed to move toward new peace talks mediated by Russia, sources on both sides told AFP.The initial agreement came after separate delegations led by prominent opposition figure Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib and Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem visited Moscow in November. Bouthaina Shaaban, government delegation member and adviser to President Bashar Assad, called meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "very positive". Alongside Iran, Russia is the Assad regime's main backer in its drive to battle a nearly four-yearlong insurgency.Early in 2014, government and opposition delegations met in Geneva for two rounds of failed talks sponsored by Russia and the U.S.The main obstacles to progress then were whether Assad would remain in power, the war against "terrorism" and a possible transitional government. Former coalition chief Khatib, who resigned from the group in 2013 but remains an influential opposition figure, traveled to Moscow along with other military and political dissidents in early November.
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