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Syrian peace talks end in acrimony

Talks between the Syrian government and the opposition have ended in acrimony in Moscow with the parties failing to bridge their differences.

The Russian mediator of the week-long meeting, Vitaly Naumkin, said the parties agreed on a set of principles for a political settlement, but acknowledged that they could not reach accord on confidence-building measures.

Some of the participants later reversed their support for the initial set of principles because of a failure to agree on steps to release prisoners and other moves to improve mutual trust, Mr Naumkin said.

"If we spent another week here, we would probably reach agreement on other issues," Mr Naumkin said at a briefing. "They sat at the table together, they didn't go into a fistfight, they listened to each other. It's good."

Moscow arranged the negotiations in a bid to raise its international profile at a time of bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine.

"We didn't have any excessive expectations, we didn't expect the meeting to settle the Syrian crisis," Mr Naumkin said.

The disagreements followed Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting with the negotiators on Thursday, when he strongly urged the parties to reach a compromise to stem the spread of Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the region.

Mr Lavrov said the US-led air campaign against IS has failed to reach its goals, and he criticised Washington for training some of the rebels.

The main Syrian opposition group refused to attend the talks in Moscow, which followed a first round of negotiations in January.

Russia has staunchly backed Syrian president Bashar Assad's government throughout the country's four-year civil war, shielding it from United Nations sanctions.

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