NEW YORK // The new US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said he will use his first official trip abroad, which is likely to happen this month, to consult allies on new proposals designed to persuade the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, to hand over power in a political transition.
"We need to address the question of President Assad's calculation currently," he said after meeting the Jordanian foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, at the state department with on Wednesday.
"I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception. I've got a good sense of what I think we might propose."
He acknowledged that a political transition would be difficult to achieve and would not give a timeframe, but said that "there is an inevitability here".
Mr Kerry did not offer details on any potential offers to the Syrian regime, but implied that he would urge Russia to help convince Mr Al Assad to step aside.
"I still remain hopeful that there may be an equation where the Russians and the United States could, in fact, find more common ground than we have yet", he said.
Moscow has been supplying the Syrian government with arms and financial support during the two-year uprising, US officials have said, and has said Mr Al Assad's removal cannot be a precondition for negotiations with rebels.
Moaz Al Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, who the US backs as the legitimate leader of the Syrian opposition, met the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in Munich this month.
A senior Russian diplomat said Mr Al Khatib and the Syrian foreign minister, Walid Al Muallem, would visit Moscow soon in separate trips.
Mr Kerry emphasised that only a negotiated settlement could prevent an "implosion of the state" that was "dangerous for everybody" in the region.
Mr Judeh added that the rebels' demand for Mr Al Assad to step down immediately, and his supporters' insistence that no negotiations were possible with this precondition had to be reconciled.
"I think you have to go down the middle and try to bridge the two positions together," he said.
Wednesday's meeting came a day after the US president, Barack Obama, said in his state of the union address that he would keep up the pressure on the Syrian government but did not call, as he has done repeatedly, for Mr Al Assad to step down immediately.
The refocusing on diplomatic efforts was in line with his administration's refusal to supply weapons to Syrian rebels, amid fears about the rise of Islamist groups in the conflict.
Mr Kerry also discussed the administration's unexpected push on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "The window is closing on this possibility … so it deserves our utmost consideration, and it will get that," he said.
But he tempered expectations of any major breakthrough during Mr Obama's visit next month to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.
"The president is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties," said Mr Kerry.
"And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are, and then begin to make some choices."