US seeks to keep lid on Syria fighting

WASHINGTON - The United States says it is working on specific initiatives to reduce the bloodshed in Syria and revive a nationwide ceasefire.

It says a priority is to halt conflict in Aleppo, where more than 200 people have died in a week of government air strikes and rebel shelling.

The US wants Russia to put pressure on the Syrian government to stop what it says is an indiscriminate bombardment.

Russia says the air raids on Aleppo are targeting terrorist groups.

US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Russian and Syrian government claims that the Aleppo strikes were targeting the Nusra Front - a jihadist force that is not party to a ceasefire.

Mr Kerry is in Geneva on Sunday to discuss the situation with the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and the foreign ministers of Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Mr Kerry has expressed his deep concern about the deteriorating situation in Aleppo, with more government air strikes on Saturday reported to have killed at least four people with many more wounded, mostly in the neighbourhood of Bab al-Nairab.

The US secretary of state blames the government of President Bashar al-Assad for worsening the conflict by predominantly targeting civilians.

The US argues that such attacks are direct violations of the temporary ceasefire that came into effect two months ago, and must stop immediately.

Efforts to secure peace must take place in Aleppo as well as in the areas of Latakia and eastern Ghouta, Mr Kerry said in telephone calls to Mr de Mistura and the Syrian opposition's General Co-ordinator for the High Negotiations Committee, Riyad Hijab.

Work was under way to defuse tensions and the hope was that "tangible progress" would be made soon, State department spokesman John Kirby said.

Diplomatic pressure was being put on Russia to stop violations by the Assad government, especially its indiscriminate aerial attacks on Aleppo, he said.

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