News / Europe

    US: Syria 'Clearly Trying to Disrupt' Peace Talks

    French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, March 13, 2016. Kerry and his counterparts were to discuss Syria, Libya, Yemen and Ukraine, among other foreign
    French Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attend a meeting at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, March 13, 2016. Kerry and his counterparts were to discuss Syria, Libya, Yemen and Ukraine, among other foreign
    VOA News

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday accused Syria of “clearly trying to disrupt" the U.N.-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending the bloody five-year civil war in the country by demanding that there be no discussion of removing President Bashar al-Assad from power.

    The top U.S. diplomat said that violence in the war-wracked country has been "hugely reduced" -- by 80 to 90 percent -- since a “cessation of hostilities” was declared two weeks ago. But he said the "single biggest violator" of the truce has been the Assad regime, and he described Assad as a "spoiler."

    “Aerial bombardments ... must stop,” Kerry said. “Look hard at who is committing these violations.”

    He said “incremental violations threaten to undermine” efforts to permanently end the fighting and any effort to eventually hold elections in Syria.

    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 12, 2016.
    Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Muallem speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 12, 2016.

    Kerry spoke after meeting with his British, French, German and Italian counterparts Sunday in Paris about the Syrian crisis, a day before the U.N. talks are set to begin in Geneva.

    Ahead of Monday's discussions, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned negotiators that any talk about the fate of Syria's president is off the table. "We will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency . . . Bashar al-Assad is a red line," Muallem said.

    Assad has to go

    Mohammad Alloush, the chief negotiator for Syria's main opposition group, said the president has to go, a demand the U.S. also has long made.

    Alloush told the French news agency AFP, "We believe that the transitional period should start with the fall or death of Bashar al-Assad."

    Kerry has urged both sides in Syria  to proceed with the peace talks despite their conflict over the presidency.

    Muallem said the Syrian government remains committed to the cease-fire agreement, but its delegation to the peace talks will only wait 24 hours for the opposition delegation to arrive for the talks. Muallem said Saturday in Damascus the diplomats will leave for Geneva Sunday.

    FILE - Civil defense workers remove dead bodies from under debris after an airstrike on Kafr Hamra village in the northern Aleppo countryside of Syria, Feb. 27, 2016.
    FILE - Civil defense workers remove dead bodies from under debris after an airstrike on Kafr Hamra village in the northern Aleppo countryside of Syria, Feb. 27, 2016.

    A Syrian opposition official said the foreign minister is "halting Geneva talks before they start."

    U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura has said the Geneva meetings, which are scheduled to open on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the start of the conflict in March 2011, would not last more than 10 days.

    Aid deliveries

    U.N. officials said the cessation of hostilities agreement has made it possible for U.N. and partner agencies to deliver food, medicine and other aid to 115,000 Syrian civilians living in areas under siege by government or opposition forces. They said last year, aid agencies were unable to access any of these areas.

    But Kerry said he continues to be  “deeply concerned” about the Syrian government’s efforts to deter the delivery of medical and surgical supplies.

    He accused the Syrian government of siphoning off vital medical aid to war-hit communities.

    Syria's five-year conflict has killed more than 270,000 people and forced millions from their homes.

    Lisa Bryant in Paris contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Jose Lugo from: Miami
    March 13, 2016 7:55 PM
    I wonder, What law give them right, Kerry and Obama, to ask for Assad to resign? that idiot requirement is made out of corruption.

    by: JGinNJ from: USA
    March 13, 2016 1:03 PM
    "... permanently end the fighting..." The impression is that there are two sides in this civil war and that the rebels merit consideration, to be part of a new government. But the rebels are foam at the mouth fanatics who are bent on revenge and in implementing whatever government the Saudi royalty wants. There will be no peace unless they are exterminated.

    by: Kevin L from: Netherlands
    March 13, 2016 11:40 AM
    Of course, Syria is taking their cues from Comrade Putin.

    by: Pierre Anonymot from: Savannah, GA
    March 13, 2016 9:16 AM
    At some point Hillary Clinton and the CIA should take the responsibility for following Netanyahu's advice and starting this madness. It's the Bush Iraq doubled down and a historic tragedy.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 13, 2016 9:11 AM
    Truth be told... The losing side in any war (like the US now) asks for a ceasefire and peace talks, [and the winning side (like the Syrian government) offers terms and conditions on a ceasefire and a peace plan, [and now], after the 5 year US proxy war failed to remove Assad and his Shia Muslim led government from power to be replaced by an unelected handpicked Sunni Muslim government, and after 400,000 Syrian deaths and the country destroyed, (the US is still trying to get at the bargaining table what they couldn't achieve on the battlefield with their terrorist/rebel fighters), and if the US could achieve that, it would make it a great US propaganda victory even though 400,000 Syrians already died and their country was completely destroyed?

    Why on earth would the Syrian government agree to such a ridiculous US demand? .. What moron would think that the Syrian government would give the US at the bargaining table what they (the Syrian government) has fought so hard against for the last 5 years? .. [After 400,000 Syrian deaths and their country destroyed?] .. It's more than likely the Syrian government would continue the war for another 5 years or more, before they'd capitulate to the US ridiculous demands? .. think about it?
    In Response

    by: American Eskimo from: San Jose, USA
    March 13, 2016 11:58 PM
    Meambill and KoreyD are right on.
    Lately, the propaganda machine is trying to pin Russia for the refugees, deaths and destructions in the ME.
    USA is currently hard at work to start a new battlefield in South China Sea.

    In Response

    by: Sense Eye
    March 13, 2016 12:16 PM
    Meanbill, You're not allowed to comment anymore. You just make too much sense.
    In Response

    by: KoreyD from: Canada
    March 13, 2016 11:57 AM
    Agree 100%. Also I believe Kerry is trying to give the ipmpression America and it's rebel proxies are the only honest brokers. Exactly what right does America have to even be at the table? It is trying to remove the legitimate government of a sovereign nation, it is a bandit and a rogue nation bullying it's way around the world, flouting International laws and norms. It should be condemned by the UN for it's many illegal invasions and regime changes and pay war reperations for those events

    by: Tom Fuller from: Texas
    March 13, 2016 8:42 AM
    Syria has nothing to worry about as long as Obama is president, in my opinion. After the New Year, if a Republican gets it, everything will change.
    In Response

    by: Jose Lugo from: Miami
    March 13, 2016 7:57 PM
    With Trump, it will be worse.
    In Response

    by: JGinNJ from: USA
    March 13, 2016 1:08 PM
    If the Democrat Clinton gets in everything will change too. With either Clinton or Cruz, Rubio or Kasich Syria will be turned into another Libya and many millions will be massacred by our peace loving democratically oriented forward thinking best friends in Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni kingdoms and sheikdoms. At some stage we have to learn we are on the wrong side and act on that realization. If we are going to have regime change it should start with the Saudi government.

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