11:39 Sep. 4, 2016
Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to huddle on the sidelines of the summit, the White House said
The United States is skeptical an agreement with Russia to decease violence in Syria can work but will keep pursuing it nonetheless, President Barack Obama said Sunday as negotiators from both countries edged toward a deal.
Obama, speaking on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in China, said the U.S. and Russia still have "grave differences" about what's needed to end Syria's civil war and which opposition groups are legitimate targets for the U.S. and Russian militaries. But he said "it is worth trying."
"We're not there yet," Obama said. "I think it's premature for us to say there's a clear path forward, but there's the possibility at least for us to make some progress."
A deal could be announced as early as Sunday by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said a senior U.S. State Department official, adding that the two countries were close to a deal but still had unresolved issues. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the negotiations publicly and requested anonymity.
Kerry and Lavrov have been deep in talks for weeks over a deal to boost U.S. and Russian military cooperation to fight the Islamic State group and other extremists in Syria — a step Moscow has long sought. The package would include provisions so aid can reach besieged areas of Syria and measures to prevent Syrian President Bashar Assad's government from bombing areas where U.S.-backed rebels are operating.