U.S. urges Russia to respect ceasefire during Syria talks

ROME (Reuters) - Russia should stop bombing opposition forces in Syria now that U.N.-led peace talks aimed at ending the war have started, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday. Kerry said he was "extraordinarily sympathetic" to the fact that opposition fighters were coming under attack from Russia, which is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But he did not say what Washington could do to halt the bombing. "We are beginning the talks, we are at the table and we expect a ceasefire," Kerry said after a meeting in Rome of countries opposed to Islamic State. "The ceasefire has been embraced and voted for by the Russians and they have expressed their support for it." U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura announced the formal start on Monday of the first attempt in two years to negotiate an end to the war in Syria, but both opposition and government representatives have since said the talks have not in fact begun and that fighting on the ground has raged without constraint. A rebel commander has said the Russian air force has mounted heavy air strikes near Aleppo, once Syria's biggest city, which is now divided between government and opposition forces. "My hope is (Russia) will immediately start to implement a genuine ceasefire. A ceasefire should be doable, folks. The Russians can control the Russian planes," Kerry said. (Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)