Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for the first face-to-face U.S. meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since he announced a pullback of Russian forces in Syria this month.

Mr. Kerry will seek to determine whether Mr. Putin is more amenable to removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power now that a fragile cease-fire has been declared on the ground and peace talks are progressing in Geneva between rebels and the Syrian government, said a senior State Department official.

Mr. Kerry’s trip, which lasts until Friday, “will be a chance to evaluate where we are,” the official said.

“They’ve had quite a bit of contact with Assad in recent weeks and, obviously, if this cessation of hostilities is going to transform into a true transformation for Syria, it’s going to have to involve getting down to brass tacks on what that political transition looks like,” the official said.

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