Moscow (AFP) - Russia, the United States and the United Nations will hold talks on Syria in Geneva on Friday as diplomatic efforts to end the conflict are ratcheted up, Moscow and Washington announced.
"We will be having consultations in the trilateral format -- Russia, the United States and the UN," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the RIA Novosti state news agency on Wednesday.
He added that UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura was also set to take part in the talks aimed at ending a brutal war that has killed more than 250,000 people and forced millions from their homes since March 2011.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson would represent the US at the meeting to discuss moving forward on a political transition in Syria and "trying to get at the framework and the architecture for a ceasefire".
Gatilov said Russia would be calling for the "intensification of joint efforts" in the "fight against terrorism".
The talks mark the latest step in the so-called Vienna process that began in late October when 17 countries, including the UN and EU representatives, met to discuss a political solution to end the fighting between President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition.
The next meeting between top diplomats in the Vienna process is expected to take place this month in New York.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a call with his US counterpart John Kerry on Wednesday, said they needed to draw up a list of "terrorist groups that we must not talk to and that we must fight together", his ministry said.
Kerry said he would visit Moscow next week.
Moscow has sought, so far without success, to persuade nations in the US-led coalition that opposes Assad to work with its own forces flying a bombing campaign in Syria and with Damascus in a broader coalition against the Islamic State group.
Meanwhile, representatives from Syria's fragmented opposition on Wednesday began a two-day closed-door meeting in Saudi Arabia to seek a united front for potential talks with Assad.
It was the first time a broad range of Syrian political and armed opposition factions have come together since the conflict erupted.
But another Russian deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, deplored that Ahrar al-Sham -- which is linked to Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front -- and the rebel Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), had been invited to the Riyadh talks as they are "strongly suspected of being terrorist organisations".