October 5, 2016 / 8:46 PM / 10 months ago

Lavrov, Kerry discuss Syria by phone despite breakdown in talks

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(L-R) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pose for a photo before a Middle East Quartet Principals Meeting during 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 23, 2016.Andrew Kelly

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the situation in Syria in a telephone call on Wednesday, just two days after Washington said it was breaking off bilateral diplomacy with Moscow on the Syrian war.

Lavrov and Kerry also talked about the crisis in Ukraine and cooperation in the U.N. Security Council on North Korea during the phone conversation, which was organised at the request of the U.S. side, Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department said the call did not amount to a resumption of bilateral contacts with Lavrov over the effort to reach a ceasefire in Syria.

The collapse of the last ceasefire and the bilateral dialogue led to a renewed push to take control of Aleppo by Russian-backed Syrian government troops.

"What we talked about the other day was bilateral engagement with regard to Syria," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing. "That remains suspended, but it certainly doesn't preclude the ... secretary of state and Foreign Minister Lavrov from talking."

"It would be irresponsible for us, given what's happening in Aleppo, not to touch base with Foreign Minister Lavrov periodically," he added.

Toner said Kerry had spoken to his counterparts in Britain, Germany, France, Turkey, the European Union and Qatar over the past 24 hours.

He has said that after the collapse of U.S.-Russia contacts on Syria, the United States was going to pursue multilateral diplomacy in conjunction with other countries that belong to the International Syria Support Group.

"It was part of those multilateral efforts now that are going to continue because we recognise they got to be part of the conversation," Toner said, noting the suspended bilateral approach was the one dealing with the failed agreement reached in Geneva on Sept. 10.

"That effort is suspended," Toner said. "But that does not preclude us from talking.

Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Additional reporting by David Alexander in Washington; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alistair Bell

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