(Vatican Radio) US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Germany to discuss efforts to halt fighting in the devastated Syrian city of Aleppo. The two are meeting in the northern city of Hamburg on the sidelines of a gathering of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that opens Thursday.
Listen to the report by Stefan Bos:
Secretary of State Kerry, who is on a farewell tour in Europe, and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov meet at a time of mounting East-West tensions over how to end Syria's five-year civil war that has killed some 400,000 people.
The focus of their talks will be on Aleppo as it has become a symbol of suffering.
American officials have condemned what they view as the indiscriminate bombing of eastern Aleppo by Russian-backed Syrian government forces and reiterated their calls for a humanitarian pause in the fighting, a step that Russian and Chinese diplomats previously vetoed at the United Nations.
However ahead of Wednesday's talks, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said Russia wanted to start talks with the United States this week on a deal for rebels to leave eastern Aleppo. Any who refused, would be regarded as terrorists,
subject to deadly assault.
CLOSE TO DEAL
Lavrov also said that Russia and the United States were close to an agreement. He added that Kerry submitted a proposal for the routes and timing of the fighters’ departure after meeting with Lavrov in Rome over the weekend.
And Lavrov told an international conference that Russia had begun delivering humanitarian aid to the area. The United Nations for one reason or another I don't know is not yet moving on this issue," he said.
"And we decided you know not to wait and we are sending Russian humanitarian assistance to east Aleppo. We deployed two mobile hospitals, we send doctors, medicines, medical equipment and this hospitals already function to help the Syrian civilians in east Aleppo," Lavrov added.
Yet, the United States, Britain and France have led a joint call for an immediate ceasefire to allow more international aid to reach Aleppo, in an appeal backed by Canada, Germany and Italy.
After his talks with Lavrov in Hamburg, Kerry was expected to continue on to Paris to take part in a separate meeting on Syria, organized by his French, German and Qatari counterparts.