The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to travel to Russia next week, following up on recent talks between President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin in Mexico.

The State Department said yesterday that Clinton will attend a meeting June 28 of Asia-Pacific foreign ministers in St. Petersburg. She also will hold private talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov likely to focus on the crisis in Syria and efforts to get Iran to comply with international demands on its nuclear program.

Clinton's visit had been planned before Monday's Obama-Putin meeting, but she and Lavrov are expected to build on that discussion, which ended without apparent agreement on how to end continuing violence in Syria.

She will visit Finland and Latvia before Russia.

Wednesday, as part of a stepped-up effort to persuade Israeli and Palestinian officials to return to peace talks, Clinton met with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Deputy Premier Shaul Mofaz, a center-left politician who has said peace with the Palestinians should be an Israeli priority.

Last week, Clinton met Israel's lead negotiator, Yitzhak Molcho, and spoke by phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

U.S. officials say the goal is to improve the atmosphere for direct talks that broke down three years ago and have yet to be resuscitated despite the administration's many attempts. Recent developments, including announcements of new Israeli settlement construction and attacks from Gaza into Israel, have done nothing to improve the prospects for talks.

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