The United States on Friday called for a ceasefire in Syria during the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival next week, throwing its weight behind international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to broker a halt to the worsening violence.
The State Department said it supports Brahimi's call for a ceasefire "so that the Syrian people may observe the religious holiday in peace and security."
"We urge the Syrian government to stop all military operations and call on opposition forces to follow suit," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.
"The Syrian government should also permit full and immediate humanitarian access to districts that have been under siege and allow vital supplies to reach people in need," she said.
Brahimi, the joint U.N.-Arab League special envoy for the Syria crisis, arrived in Damascus on Friday to begin talks with officials from President Bashar al-Assad's government aimed at securing the brief ceasefire.
Brahimi has been criss-crossing the region with the aim of convincing Assad's main backers and his foes to support the idea of a truce during the festival.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has called for all sides to observe the three- or four-day ceasefire. Iran, seen as one of Assad's major backers, has also supported the ceasefire call but added that the main problem in Syria was foreign interference
Securing even a temporary ceasefire would appear difficult in the intensifying conflict in which more than 30,000 people have been killed over 19 months.
A previous ceasefire in April collapsed after just a few days, with each side blaming the other. Mediator Kofi Annan resigned his post in frustration a few months later. Next week's truce would be self-imposed, with no international observers.
The United States has repeatedly said it believes Assad must step down to allow for a political transition in Syria, and blamed Russia and China for blocking moves at the U.N. Security Council aimed at increasing pressure on his government.
Russia and China, joined by Iran, say they are opposed to foreign intervention in Syria and accuse Western powers of working with Arab allies in the Gulf to support Syria's armed opposition in a conflict that appears to be heading toward a sectarian proxy war.