"The United States welcomes the important decision by the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian opposition to attend negotiations hosted by the United Nations in Geneva," Kerry said in a statement yesterday.

This had been a key demand of the rebel coalition, which had insisted that Syrian government forces and their Russian allies halt the bombing of besieged enclaves and allow humanitarian convoys to reach starving families.

"The United States further expects that both sides in these negotiations will participate in good faith and achieve early, measurable progress in the days ahead," Kerry said.

Next week, Kerry is to attend a fund raising meeting with donor states in London to support humanitarian efforts to ease the plight of refugees and displaced people caught up in Syria's civil war.

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