ROME U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged continued efforts to secure peace in Syria on Friday, on a trip to Rome where he met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Pope Francis.
Seated at a table with Lavrov on the sidelines of a forum attended by foreign ministers and energy executives, Kerry was asked whether Syria diplomacy was still alive.
"All diplomacy is still alive," Kerry replied.
Fierce fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo has added to a humanitarian crisis in a civil war that has raged between President Bashar-al Assad's forces and rebels since 2011. International efforts to broker a settlement or institute truces have repeatedly failed.
Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, has been in talks for about two weeks with the rebels to ease conditions in Aleppo, but an opposition official said on Friday that Moscow was procrastinating.
Kerry, who will relinquish his post when Donald Trump moves in to the White House on Jan. 20, also met the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and said they would meet again early next week in Geneva.
"Nobody is waiting for the next administration," Kerry said. Later on, at a news conference, he added: "We continue to explore every avenue to halt the inexcusable carnage in Syria."
Friday's meetings touched on efforts to create a framework that would allow people to leave Aleppo safely, as well as bringing the parties back to Geneva for fresh talks.
"That is Staffan De Mistura's goal, it is the apparent Russian goal, it is our goal," Kerry said.
(Reporting by Antonio Denti and Isla Binnie; Editing by Kevin Liffey)