U.S. Will Accept More Refugees, Secretary of State Says

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier address the media after their meeting at the German foreign ministry's guesthouse Villa Borsig in Berlin on September 20. Axel Schmidt/Reuters

BERLIN (Reuters) - The United States will take in 15,000 more refugees from around the world next year, increasing the current level to 85,000, and to 100,000 in 2017, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said after talks with his German counterpart on Sunday.

The remarks may show an increasing willingness of the United States to help cope with the mass migration of Syrians although the offer is modest when compared with the hundreds of thousands that are moving alone to Europe and in particular, Germany.

Kerry did not say how many of the additional refugees would be from Syria but pledged that the U.S. was ready to help.

"In consultation with Congress, we will continue to explore ways to increase those figures while maintaining robust security," Kerry told a news conference after meeting German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"The need is enormous, but we are determined to answer the call."

Kerry's comments address calls on U.S. President Barack Obama, to help more in the crisis. Obama has said the U.S. over the coming year will accept at least 10,000 Syrians displaced by the four-year civil war.

Kerry's announcement comes ahead of a September 23 emergency summit meeting of European Union leaders to address the flood of refugees that has overwhelmed the region.

Countries disagree as to who should take responsibility for the more than 500,000 people who have crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year alone, prompting Hungary's use of water cannon and razor wire on its border with Serbia.

Many of the same fears shape the debate in Europe as in the United States, where the number of refugees allowed in slowed sharply after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Some Republicans have warned that the administration was allowing in potential terrorists. Aid groups, meanwhile, have been critical of plans to allow in only 10,000 Syrians, given the large size of the American economy and population. They have called for 10 times as many to be admitted.

Kerry has pushed for renewed efforts to find a political solution to the crisis and urged Russia and Iran, who back Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, to convince him to negotiate an end to the war.

While in London on Saturday, Kerry repeated that the Syrian president must go but said the conditions and timing of his departure depended on negotiations.