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Reports: US, Russian foreign ministers to hold talks Tuesday

MOSCOW (AP) _ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet in Sochi on Tuesday with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, for talks on Ukraine, Syria, Yemen and Iran, Russian news agencies reported Monday.

State news agency RIA-Novosti cited a diplomatic source as saying the Kremlin hopes Kerry will bring new proposals on reaching a settlement in Ukraine.

There was no immediate confirmation from the State Department on the trip to Russia, although Kerry has made it clear for several months he'd like to go. The last time he visited Russia was May 2013.

Ukraine continues to be embroiled in sporadic conflict with separatist rebels in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk despite a cease-fire agreement sealed in mid-February.

Western nations have accused Russia of supporting separatists in Ukraine with arms and manpower _ a claim that Moscow has denied.

Meanwhile, Russia has bristled at Washington's pledge to provide Ukraine with military assistance in the form of hardware and training.

In late April, troops from the United States and Ukraine kicked off joint training exercises intended to help bolster Ukraine's defenses. The exercises, dubbed ``Fearless Guardian-2015,'' sparked an enraged reaction from Russia, which described them as a potential cause of destabilization.

The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed official as saying the issue of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine would be raised at the meeting in Sochi.

During a visit to Moscow on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russia to use its influence to persuade separatists in Ukraine to abide by the oft-violated cease-fire.

Ukraine says more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict that began in April 2014 between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

Russia has stuck firmly to the line that the Ukrainian government retains the bulk of responsibility for bringing about a settlement.

``We will use all the influence we have on the leadership in Donetsk and Luhansk to ensure the process proceeds at the required pace and attains the necessary level,'' Russian President Vladimir Putin told Merkel on Sunday.

Diplomats in Moscow and Washington remain at odds over a range of other international issues.

Russia last month announced it would lift a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, drawing a hasty rebuke from the United States.

The White House said the missile system would give the Islamic republic's military a strong deterrent against any air attack. The Kremlin argues that the S-300 is a purely defensive system that will not jeopardize the security of Israel or any other countries of the Middle East.

On Syria, Russia has defied a chorus of international condemnation to remain fast to the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad.