News / Middle East

Kerry Calls on Syrian Government to Make Peace

Kerry: Assad Risks Greater Support for Opposition If He Rejects Peace Talksi
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May 23, 2013
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad risks greater international support for his opponents if he does not agree to peace talks that the U.S. wants to convene in June. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from Amman, Jordan, where Kerry also criticized Iran for "making the problem worse" in Syria.

Kerry: Assad Risks Greater Support for Opposition If He Rejects Peace Talks

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— U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad risks increasing international support for his opponents if he does not agree to take part in peace talks. In Amman, Kerry criticized Iran for "making the problem worse" in Syria.

Kerry says governments backing the opposition in Syria condemn what he calls the destructive role of Lebanese Hezbollah militants fighting alongside government troops.

"Active military support to the Assad regime simply exacerbates the sectarian tensions and perpetuates the regime's campaign of terror against its own people," said Kerry.

Kerry says Iran is "contributing significantly to this violence" by actively supporting thousands of Hezbollah fighters.

While he says President Barack Obama does not intend to send U.S. troops to Syria, he has taken no options off the table with respect to what kind of support Washington might provide the opposition.

Kerry says the Obama administration hopes President Assad "will understand the meaning of that, and the Iranians and others will understand the meaning of that" as well. But he coupled the threat of greater rebel support with an appeal to join talks on a transitional government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, on May 22, 2013.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, on May 22, 2013.
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, on May 22, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman, on May 22, 2013.
"The benefit of a political settlement is in everybody's interest. And I think that's true for Lebanon and that's true for Iran. And hopefully Iranians could find themselves even finding a way to be contributing somehow to a solution rather than making the problem worse," he said.

Speaking to reporters alongside Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Kerry said he is not here to dictate to anyone about peace talks but rather to find the best way forward.

"We will listen to all voices with respect to the format, to the timing, to the agenda, and to the outcomes to be discussed," he said.

But he says the already-agreed-to mutual-consent provisions of a transitional government make clear that President Assad has no future ruling Syria.

"Can a person who has used artillery shells and missiles and Scuds and tanks against women and children and university students - can that person possibly by judged by any reasonable person to have the credibility and legitimacy to lead that country in the future?" asked Kerry.

So why would President Assad join such peace talks? If it is because he believes recent military advances put him in a stronger position, Kerry says the Syrian leader is mistaken.

"If Bashar al-Assad thinks the gains he has made in the last few days are going to be determinative of this, then he is miscalculating just as he did when he engaged in this struggle against his own people," he said.

Assad troops and Hezbollah fighters have gained ground along the Lebanese border, which Foreign Minister Judeh says risks fragmenting Syria.

"The presence of extremist organizations and non-Syrian fighters on the ground is of concern to many of us - those countries that are neighboring Syria and those countries that are interested in preserving the territorial integrity and the safety and security of the Syrian people," said Judeh.

Judeh and Kerry joined foreign ministers from Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates in discussing the U.S.-Russian plan to bring together for the first time rebel and government representatives.

Latest images from Syria

  • Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) speaks with Shukri Bin Suleiman Harmasi (R), secretary general of the Tunisian Immutable Principles Party, during a meeting in Damascus, May 23, 2013.
  • A Syrian rebel fires shells against government forces in Idlib, northern Syria, May 23, 2013.
  • Security forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad take part in a field exercise at an undisclosed location, May 22, 2013. (SANA via Reuters)
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows people gathered by houses that were destroyed in an airstrike in Qusair, Homs province, Syria, May 21, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows a man checking his house that was damaged by an airstrike, Qusair, Homs, Syria, May 21, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows rebels preparing to repel an attack by government forces, in Qusair, Homs province, Syria, May 19, 2013.
  • This citizen journalism image provided by Qusair Lens shows Syrians inspecting the rubble of buildings damaged in government airstrikes, in Qusair, Homs province, Syria, May 18, 2013.
  • A Free Syrian Army fighter fires back at the Syrian Army, Deir al-Zor, May 19, 2013.
  • People travel on the back of a pickup truck in Deir al-Zor, Syria, May 19, 2013.
  • Members of the Free Syrian Army cook food, Deir al-Zor, May 19, 2013.

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by: MUSTAFA from: PAKISTAN
May 23, 2013 2:59 AM
This is a big joke that those responsible for spreading terrorism in the whole world, some time in the name of CHANGE REGIME, FIGHT FOR RUSSIA, TO PROTECT DEMOCRACY in third world country. I cannot understand why BIG shot is so much worry about human rights in Syria and not in Saudi Arabia,Kuwait,Qatar and so many so called ISLAMIC states on paper only.

Pakistan fought with Russia on behalf of CHAMPION of human rights. But how much we have suffered in the last 30 years due to that war no body can imagine. I have read USA PRESDIENT statement about 15 years back that there is a plan to CHANGE REGIME IN SYRIA AND IRAN. This is the game all about to implement what he said 15 YEARS BACK. If USA is really interested in human rights and freedom of speech, then start work from Saudi Arabia, Qatar,Kuwait and so many PUPPET govts with the blessing of USA AND WEST.


by: Veronica H from: USA
May 22, 2013 9:02 PM
imagine how the Israelis feel... yes, Assad supplied the Hizboz with weapons but he kept the border with Israel safe... now, Britain is trying to comply with Saudi demands to topple Assad and supply Britain with cheap oil in return... the Israelis don't like the revolting Hizboz but hope to have Assad continue to exercise a measure of control over his own country.

The Russians French and Germans are with Israel, the British however try to recruit the Americans to destroy Assad... I say - let the British try to remove Assad by themselves... yeah, let them try... and if they (the British) think that the "rebels" are going to feel grateful for the British after Assad removal... think again Britain. hey Cameron, just leave the US out of this... look on you tube how the "rebels" slaughter the Hizboz and the Iranians... LOL


by: joekanuck from: Canada
May 22, 2013 5:33 PM
So let's see if I have this straight; the US is warning Assad that things could get worse if he doesn't do what he's told...which means let the Al Qaeda infested rebels win.

So how does that help peace? Instead of a guy who has had peace in region, (including Israel), they want the leaderless, fractured radical Islamists, who really do want to destroy Israel, in control of not just the country, but the military including the chemical weapons.

All this to try and poke Iran in the nose. Just a couple of points here, Kerry...the anarchy you're supporting plays right into the hands of Israel's enemies since the busier Israel is with them, the less time it has to worry about Iran, (which still isn't building a bomb by the way...which you know because the NSA boys have told you).

As well, while touting the ouster of Assad as a great loss to Iran, you keep forgetting to mention that the USA handed an even bigger prize, Iraq, to Iran. Iraq has always had a pro Iranian Shia majority, which was suppressed by Saddam. You killed Saddam and now Iraq and Iran are the best of friends.

Just look at the hundreds of thousands of deaths and probably millions wounded in the wars in the region started by the US....and they have the cojones to lecture anybody about peace?

How about human rights? How are those elections in Saudi coming along? Can the women vote yet? How about walk alone, get an education, work or even talk back to a man without being beaten or worse?

How are the journalists and bloggers who dare to speak out against the Saudi regime doing? That's obviously a joke since they've just disappeared...we'll never know what happened to them.

So Kerry...maybe take some time and really think about the real message you're sending when you engage in such open and blatant hypocrisy.

Do as I say, not as I do gunboat diplomacy just isn't cutting it anymore.


by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
May 22, 2013 3:39 PM
I think that a fundamental error is being made in the approach to the negotiations. Pre-conditions and stated end outcomes will not bring anyone, in good faith, to the negotiations. There is no point in having negotiations, if one or both sides have a list of pre-conditions. The whole purpose of having negotiations, is for the parties in conflict to deal with the issues on their own terms. Maybe the international community should dictate a cease fire, but that is as far as it should go. Pre-conditions, are exactly the same fundamental error that has been made in many long running conflicts. Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Israel, etc. Get the responsible parties, in authority/decision makers, to the table and then start the work- ACCEPT/SUPPORT NO PRE-CONDITIONS.


by: Akram73 from: France
May 22, 2013 1:14 PM
if this Jordanian queen thinks that the US will help him when the time comes... he should look to Egypt or Libya to see his future...


by: Ahmet Mazuk from: Jordan
May 22, 2013 12:50 PM
here... another "king"... a revolting little reprobate

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