The Latest: Russia calls for direct Syria peace talks

The Latest on the Syrian civil war (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

Russia has called for direct talks between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday that direct talks between the government and a broad opposition delegation should be launched as part of the Geneva talks.

He also denied allegations that Moscow and Washington were negotiating the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad behind closed doors.

The talks in Geneva, which resumed last week, have until now been indirect, with a U.N. envoy shuffling between the two delegations.


2:30 p.m.

Syrian activists and rebels say opposition fighters have launched a new offensive against government forces in a number of areas in the country's northwest.

Rebels groups said in a statement Monday that the attacks in rural parts of the Latakia province, a government stronghold, are in retaliation for violations of a fragile cease-fire that began in late February.

Other fighters attacked government positions in the rural part of the adjacent Hama province.

The U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire had reduced violence across Syria despite alleged violations on both sides. The opposition says the government has breached the agreement more than 2,000 times.

The cease-fire was intended to facilitate talks in Geneva, which resumed last week. A Syrian opposition member in Geneva, Mohammed al-Abboud, says they have the right to defend themselves.