(WASHINGTON) — Newly-confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry says he plans to use his first overseas trip to promote new ideas about how to convince Syrian President Basher al-Assad to agree to a political transition that will hopefully lead to the end of a civil war that the United Nations says has claimed 70,000 lives.
Kerry said on Wednesday, “I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception.”
The new secretary of state did not indicate what things he had in mind to end the two-year-long war, but he highlighted the importance of trying to find common ground with the Russians, who so far have insisted that Assad does not need to step down as a precondition for talks between rebels and the Syrian government. U.S. officials say Russia continues to provide arms and financial support to the Assad government.
Kerry’s remarks followed a meeting at the State Department with Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, who called on the Syrian rebels and Assad to narrow their differences regarding preconditions for negotiations.
The itinerary of Kerry’s trip has not been announced, but he is expected to travel to Europe and the Middle East this month.
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Claire Moran, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN
Oren Liebermann, CNN