"To the leaders present... I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution," Francis wrote in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is hosting the G20 summit.

"Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties," he wrote.

"Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country's borders," he said.

Francis has called for the world to unite on Saturday in a day of fasting and prayer for Syria, with him leading the way with a five-hour vigil in St Peter's Square.


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