Syria Tops Agenda As Kerry Attends His First NATO Foreign Ministers Meeting

April 23, 2013 - 3:30 AM

Belgium NATO Foreign Ministers

Greek Foreign Minister Dimitrios Avramopoulos, left, talks with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, during a NATO foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, April 23, 2013. NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the situation in Syria and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO foreign ministers are meeting Tuesday in Brussels to discuss the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, and to learn the views of a new member of their club — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Officials say there is virtually no chance the 28-nation military alliance will intervene in Syria's bloody civil war. More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

The violence also has forced more than 1 million Syrians to seek safety abroad, and more are leaving by the day, burdening neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

"We can all see that the situation in Syria is getting worse," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on his way into the meeting Tuesday morning. "And we cannot ignore the risks of a regional spillover, with possible implications for allied security."

NATO has deployed Patriot missiles to Turkey, which shares a border with Syria.

On Monday, the European Union lifted its oil embargo on Syria to provide more economic support to the forces fighting to oust the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Afghanistan, NATO and its international allies will continue working Tuesday to define how it will support Afghan forces after 2014, when NATO will no longer have a combat role.

Kerry made no comment on his way into the meeting, other than to utter a single word — in French. Asked in French by a journalist if we would take one question, Kerry smiled and replied, "Apres" — or "afterward." He is scheduled to hold a news conference later in the day.