BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that Russia regrets U.S. opposition to Russian inspectors taking part in an investigation into a chemical weapons attack in Syria.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Lavrov spoke with Tillerson by telephone on Friday and they agreed once again to look into organizing an objective investigation under the aegis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
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The ministry said Lavrov also repeated Moscow’s demand that the U.S. return Russia’s retreats in Maryland and New York.
The two retreats were shut down by the Obama administration late last year in retaliation for Russia’s alleged cyber-meddling in the U.S. presidential election. The U.S. said the estates were being used for intelligence activities.
Syrian President Bashar Assad says he is not considering asking Russia to send in the troops to help the government fight the Islamic State group.
Russia, a key backer of the Assad regime, has been providing air cover for government operations since 2015 but has not provided boots on the ground.
Asked about the possibility of expanding Russia’s role in Syria, Assad said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency on Friday that “what has been done so far is good and sufficient.”
He added, however, that Russia troops “might be needed” in the future “if more terrorists from all over the world are brought” to Syria.
A Syrian state TV says the troubled population transfers involving thousands of Syrians have resumed after stalling for days following a massive explosion that killed dozens.
The deal between the government and rebels envisions the transfer of 30,000 people over 60 days.
Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast the arrival Friday of buses carrying hundreds of residents of pro-government villages Foua and Kfarya, besieged by rebels, to temporary shelters in government-controlled Aleppo suburb.
Amer Burhan, an evacuee from the pro-opposition town Zabadani, says their buses began moving toward rebel-held Idlib province.
The evacuees were trapped at an exchange point for days as negotiators argued over identities of prisoners to be released as part of the exchange. Earlier, an explosion hit the first group of evacuees Saturday, killing over 130, half of them children.