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U.S., Russia Fail to Close Deal on Syria Ceasefire

There are still details to be worked out, but a national ceasefire and access for humanitarian aid are among the goals of a deal.
A Syrian man carries a wounded child following a barrel bomb attack on the Bab al-Nairab neighbourhood of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on August 25, 2016.AMEER ALHALBI / AFP - Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the U.S. and Russia are close to a deal that could end the fighting in Syria, although he cautioned that a "political solution" is the only thing that can end the five-year civil war.

"Today I can say we achieved clarity on the path forward,” Kerry said in Geneva, where he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been negotiating on a way to reach a ceasefire. Kerry cautioned there is more work to do, and the nations wouldn't rush into a deal.

A ceasefire was announced in February, but it collapsed amid an inability of the international community to address violations.

"As we have all seen now, violations eventually became the norm rather than the exception," Kerry said. Kerry said the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad has conducted a continued aerial bombardment with barrel bombs and choline gas.

Related: Rebels Leave Daraya Under Deal Seen as Strategic Win for Assad

Kerry said "we have a few narrow issues to be resolved" on an agreement. Much of the discussions have involved how to make a ceasefire stick.

"We are close," Kerry said. "But as I have said to you in other contexts before, we’re not going to rush to an agreement until it satisfies fully the needs of the Syrian people and the ability of the international community to address them in ways that can show real results."

Sources close to the negotiations told NBC News the framework of the agreement being discussed includes a nationwide ceasefire and unrestricted access given to humanitarian groups.

The agreement being discussed also includes Russian guarantees that Moscow can and will influence the Syrian regime to abide by a deal, and a commitment to a process that would result in a new Syrian government, the negotiator said.

Related: Aleppo: Children of War

Some of those involved in the negotiations expressed concern that even if a deal was reached, it would not hold for long.

More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed since the civil war erupted in 2011 and over one million have been injured, according to United Nations estimates.

"We don’t want to have a deal for the sake of the deal," Kerry said.

"We want to have something done that is effective and that works for the people of Syria that makes the region more stable and secure," he said.