"We're at a strong beginning opening up possibilities," Kerry told the Russian leader at the start of their meeting. "Together the United States and Russia have an ability to make a significant difference."

Kerry is hoping his discussions with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will prepare the ground for a third round of talks of world powers on Syria, pencilled in for Friday in New York.

It is unclear whether the meeting will go ahead without progress between Russia and the United States over the role of  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any political transition and over which rebel groups should be part of peace talks.

Russia, one of Assad's staunchest allies, has launched a campaign of air strikes that it said were aimed at Islamic State militants but which also supported Assad's forces. The Kremlin  says the Syrian people, and not external powers, should decide Assad's political fate.

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