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Crucial Syria talks begin amid dim hopes and worsening humanitarian crisis

With dim prospects for success, world powers gathered in Munich, Germany, on Thursday to find ways to end the bloodletting in Syria and open channels of desperately needed humanitarian aid.

Russia, which is backing the Syrian regime, is proposing a cease-fire to begin March 1. After days of bombing runs that U.S. officials say have killed civilians and moderate U.S.-backed rebels, Moscow is now has a clear military advantage.

The suspicion is that Russia would prefer a cease-fire to begin three weeks from now in order to provide time to finish crushing the rebels and return the besieged city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest, to the hands of President Bashar Assad.