Kerry, Lavrov talk, finally, on Syria, NKorea: US

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Feb 18 2013 07:17 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2013 03:17 PM

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State John Kerry finally talked Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who had been unavailable for days after the North Korean nuclear test, the State Department said.

The two spent about a half an hour on the phone talking about the situation in Syria and the North Korean test, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"They also agreed to compare calendars to try to set a first bilateral meeting in the coming weeks," she said.

The conversation ended a weeklong diplomatic dance in which the new secretary's overtures met with silence from his hard-to-get Russian counterpart.

On Syria, Nuland said they discussed the importance of using their respective influence "in support of a viable transition process."

The two countries have been at sharp odds over Syria, with Moscow defending longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad and Washington pressing for his ouster and providing political support to the Syrian opposition.

"The secretary underscored the urgency of ending the bloodshed, preventing further deterioration of the institutions of the state, and protecting the rights of all Syrians and helping them to resist extremism and further sectarian strife," she said.

On North Korea, Nuland said Kerry and Lavrov "also agreed on the need for close cooperation in New York on a swift response to the DPRK's latest provocative step."

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