Syria and Iran dominated US Secretary of State John Kerry’s first meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon since his appointment to the post earlier this month. The two met in Washington, D.C. Thursday, ahead of Kerry’s first overseas visit.

“As President Obama said very clearly on Tuesday, we have to keep the pressure up on the Assad regime and we have to support opposition leaders who respect the rights of the Syrian people,” said Kerry. “I want to learn from the Secretary-General what he thinks we can do to best assist in the effort to try to change President Assad’s calculations, to stop the bloodshed and begin a peaceful political transition towards a democratic future for all of the people of Syria.”

Ahead of nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers — known as P5+1 — scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan on February 26, Kerry said they “can only make progress if the Iranians come to the table determined to make and discuss real offers and engage in a real dialogue.

“Countries that have peaceful programs do not have problems proving to people that they are peaceful. So we are not going to get trapped into a delay-after-delay process here. It’s important to engage, and I think it is incumbent on the Iranians to prove that they are prepared to meet our willingness, President Obama’s willingness, again and again stated by the president, to be open to a diplomatic resolution here,” Kerry added.

“If we didn’t have a United Nations, we’d have to invent one. So we’re grateful for the leadership that is exhibited by the Secretary-General, and I am committed on behalf of President Obama to make certain that we strengthen our relationship with the UN even further in the years ahead,” Kerry continued.

Ban stressed the need for the US to remain an active member of the international community. “US leadership will remain crucial in the period ahead,” he stated.

“As Secretary of State Kerry has just mentioned, the tragedy [in Syria] continues to deepen without any prospect of political resolution. Nearly 70,000 people have already been killed…. Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi and I are calling the Security Council to be united and speak and act in one voice. And we support the initiative by Moaz Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition, for dialogue with Syrian authorities. This is an opportunity we should not miss,” said Ban.

Addressing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Ban welcomed Obama’s and Kerry’s announced plans to visit the region, saying, “We all need to make special efforts to forge a two-state solution before the window of opportunity closes.”

“It is important that the right of Israel to exist should be respected,” he continued, “and also the viable Palestinian authorities, in terms of the political and financial situation, be supported so that both can live side by side in peace and security. That is a two-state solution.”

“I look forward to strengthening the US-UN partnership and working closely with Secretary of State Kerry towards our shared goals of peace, development, and human rights.”