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US, Russia seal Syria cease-fire, new military partnership

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov brief the media after their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Friday. | Martial Trezzini/Keystone, distributed by the Associated Press

GENEVA — The United States and Russia announced early Saturday a breakthrough agreement on Syria that foresees a nationwide cease-fire starting early next week, followed by an unlikely new military partnership between the rival governments targeting the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

At a joint news conference after a marathon day of negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the plan can reduce violence in Syria and lead to a long-sought political transition, ending more than five years of bloodshed. He called the deal a potential “turning point” in the conflict, if implemented by Syria’s Russian-backed government and U.S.-supported rebel groups.

The cease-fire begins at sundown Monday, Kerry said, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

Kerry’s negotiating partner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, confirmed the agreement and said it could help expand the counterterrorism fight and aid deliveries to Syrian civilians. He said Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government was prepared to comply with the arrangement.