U.S., Russia Stress Need for Cooperation Over Syria

BEIRUT (AP) -

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have stressed the need for more cooperation between their two countries to strengthen the cease-fire in Syria.

The ministry statement said that during Sunday’s phone conversation, Lavrov and Kerry also discussed efforts to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations, agreeing to take additional measures to halt the flow of terrorists and weapons from abroad.

Lavrov’s office also said the two diplomats expressed support for the efforts of the U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to convene the next round of talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Also Sunday, activists said airstrikes around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State terrorist group, have killed several civilians and terrorists.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the airstrikes on Sunday killed three IS leaders and 21 other terrorists as well as eight civilians.

Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, a group of activists with contacts inside the city, says a prominent IS judge, was among those killed.

It says Fawaz al-Hassan, also known as Abu Ali al-Shari, had been kicked out of IS over his extreme legal interpretations, but was later brought back into the fold to frighten potential defectors. It says 20 civilians were killed in the strikes.

Russia, Syria, and a U.S.-led international coalition have been bombing IS territory for months. It was unclear who was behind Sunday’s strikes.