BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):
A Kazakh diplomat has confirmed that a Russian proposal to set up safe zones in Syria is under discussion at talks in Astana.
The Interfax news agency quoted Aidarbek Tumatov as saying the proposal involves the creation of at least four zones.
Russia has not officially released its proposal. Reports in Russian state media say the zones would be patrolled by forces from Russia, Iran and Turkey.
The latest round of talks in Kazakhstan's capital began Wednesday, and was joined for the first time by a senior State Department official.
The Tass news agency reported that Stuart Jones, an assistant secretary of state, has already met separately with Russia's representative.
In a telephone conversation Tuesday, the U.S. and Russian presidents agreed to bolster diplomatic efforts to end Syria's six-year-old civil war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey and Russia attach great importance to "strengthening" a cease-fire in Syria and will continue to work together to try and end the conflict.
Erdogan spoke in Ankara on Wednesday before his departure for Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin on bilateral economic ties and the situation in Syria.
The Turkish leader said the two countries' aim for Syria was "to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible, to protect the country's territorial unity and (find) a political solution."
Erdogan said: "We are engaged in a productive cooperation in Syria. We jointly took several steps that led to new hopes for a political solution."
The Syrian government and the opposition are resuming cease-fire talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on Wednesday.
Syrian activists say a large explosion in a northern town along the border with Turkey has killed at least four people and wounded many others.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll in the town of Azaz is likely to climb after Wednesday's blast.
Both the Observatory and the activist-run Revolutionary Forces of Syria media office say the explosion is believed to have been caused by a car bomb. Images posted online by the activist-run Azaz Media Center showed a burnt out car and a fire in the area.
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