Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem enter a hall hand in hand for their talks in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Pool)
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The Syrian government, preparing for peace talks with rebels next week, handed the Russian co-sponsors of the conference a proposal Friday for a cease-fire in Aleppo and an exchange of prisoners.There was no response from President Bashar Assad's disparate opponents, whose very attendance at the talks due to start Wednesday in Switzerland remained in doubt – prompting an appeal from the United States, which tried to assure them that negotiations would lead to Assad's departure from power. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, visiting Moscow, said he gave Russian officials a plan for a truce in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, where government forces have been unable to dislodge rebels over the past year. He also said Damascus was ready to exchange prisoners, something rebels want. Most of the disparate rebel forces fighting inside Syria have dismissed the upcoming negotiations, known as Geneva-II.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the coalition to attend, insisting that suggestions from Syria, and from Russia, that the process could result in Assad continuing his family's four-decade rule were wide of the mark.Rival insurgents – including many from the Islamic Front, a large alliance of some of Syria's most powerful rebel groups – had been fighting to take the town for days and moved tanks and machine gun-mounted pickups against ISIS about a week ago.
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