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Obama, Putin Agree to Continue Seeking Deal on Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 5. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to U.S. President Barack Obama in Hangzhou, China, on Sept. 5. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik via AP)

HANGZHOU, China -- President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday failed to force a breakthrough in negotiations over a cease-fire for Syria, but agreed to keep looking for a path to provide humanitarian relief to thousands of besieged civilians in the civil war-ravaged country.

After a 90-minute huddle on the sidelines of an economic summit, the two leaders directed their top diplomats to return to talks quickly, likely later this week, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the meeting. The official would not be named discussing the private discussion, which also covered U.S. concerns over cybersecurity and the situation in Ukraine.

The official said the U.S. was eager to find an agreement quickly, mindful of the deteriorating conditions around the besieged city of Aleppo. But U.S. was wary of enter a deal that would not be effective. The two leaders used the talk to clarify sticking points, the official said.

The conversation came hours after U.S. and Russian negotiators acknowledged that a recent round of intense talk had come up short. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov have for weeks been trying to broker a deal that would curb the violence between the Syrian President Bashar Assad's government forces and moderate rebels backed by the U.S.

The strategy has hinged on the two sides agreeing to closer militarily coordination against extremist groups operating in Syria. But Obama has expressed skepticism that Russia would hold to its agreement.

In recent days, the State Department has said it is seeking a nationwide cease-fire between Assad's military and the rebels, rather than another "cessation of hostilities" that is time-limited and only stops fighting in some cities and regions.

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Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this story.

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