WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart resumed discussions on Syria on Wednesday despite a U.S. decision earlier this week to suspend direct talks with Moscow on trying to end the conflict.
Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke to each other by phone about Syria and several other issues, but the State Department maintained the chat was outside the engagement that Washington put on hold just 48 hours earlier due to continued bombardment of the besieged city of Aleppo.
"It would be irresponsible for us, given what's happening in Aleppo, not to touch base with Foreign Minister Lavrov periodically," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. He noted that Kerry and Lavrov also discussed North Korea and Ukraine.
Toner said Kerry had also spoken about Syria with the top diplomats from Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Turkey and Qatar.
The call with Lavrov "was part of those multilateral efforts now that are going to continue because we recognize they got to be part of the conversation," Toner said. He said the suspension of contacts with Russia had to do only with implementing a cease-fire that Kerry and Lavrov had agreed to on Sept. 9 but that quickly broke down.
The U.S. suspended that engagement Monday due to continued deteriorating conditions in Aleppo but said it would remain active in seeking peace. Toner said Kerry would be "remiss" not to raise concerns with Russia about what is happening in Aleppo, where Syrian forces backed by Russian air power are conducting air raids on rebel-held parts of the city.