Russia says Syrian contact group established

MOSCOW (AP) — A leader of the Russian delegation at talks on resolving the war in Syria says agreement has been reached to form a permanent contact group of Russia, Turkey and Iran to "preserve and strengthen the cessation of hostilities."

Sergei Vershinin made the statement Thursday after the second round of talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The meeting was attended by representatives from Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as the Syrian government and Syrian opposition.

Vershinin added that the meeting helped prepare for more comprehensive talks in Geneva, according to Russian news agencies.

Sergei Afanasyev of the Russian military's General Staff said the parties agreed on an "exchange mechanism for forcibly held people, primarily women and children."

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