The Latest: Russia says group formed to preserve Syria truce

BEIRUT (AP) -- A leader of the Russian delegation at Syrian talks in Kazakhstan says an 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 talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, attended by Russia, Turkey and Iran, as well as the Syrian government and Syrian rebels.


The meeting is intended to pave the way for the revival of broader peace talks in Geneva next week.


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," without elaborating.