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Obama 'hopeful' Russia talks will 'yield a concrete result'

President Obama said Thursday he was "hopeful" that talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would result in a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. 

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"John Kerry is overseas and meeting on the topic that we spent a lot of time on over the last several weeks — the situation in Syria and how we can make sure that chemical weapons are not used against innocent people," Obama said ahead of a meeting of his Cabinet at the White House.

"I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry has with Foreign Minister Lavrov, as well as some of the other players in this, can yield a concrete result, and I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days over the possibilities there."

Kerry arrived in Geneva Thursday morning with an interagency group of U.S. chemical weapons experts to broker a deal by which Syria would give up its chemical weapons in order to avoid a military strike. The Obama administration has said any deal must include the ultimate destruction of the nation's chemical weapons cache.

The president did not respond to shouted questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin's op-ed, published Wednesday night in The New York Times. The piece chastised Americans for their use of force in foreign conflicts, saying it has proved "ineffective and pointless" in Afghanistan and Iraq. Putin also said a military strike in Syria would “result in more innocent victims and escalation."

A senior administration official said Wednesday in reaction to the Putin op-ed that the leader had "invested his credibility in transferring Assad's chemical weapons to international control, and ultimately destroying them."

“The world will note whether Russia can follow through on that commitment," the official said.

Obama also touched on his domestic agenda in his remarks before the Cabinet meeting, saying that it was "important to recognize that we have a lot of things left to do here."

The president said he would ask the gathered secretaries to “streamline operations, cut out waste, improve performance.” He said during the meeting they would discuss budget issues, the Affordable Care Act rollout and immigration reform.

“It is still important to recognize that we have a lot of things left to do here in this government. The American people are still interested in making sure that our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, that we are putting people back to work," Obama said, "that we are dealing properly with a federal budget, that bills are being paid on time, that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved and that the federal government itself, in every single agency, is running the way it should, making sure that our constituents, the American people, are getting good service."