Speaking in Brussels ahead of an Afghanistan donors’ conference, Kerry ventured no new approaches to resolving the Syrian conflict, offering mostly bitterness that his efforts to engage Russia have resulted in no progress on the ground. The Kremlin is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most important international backer, while the United States has supported anti-Assad rebels.
Russian Su-34 dropping bombs (File photo)
“I have to tell you with a great sense of outrage that Russia has turned a blind eye to Assad’s deplorable use of these weapons of war that he has chosen: chlorine gas, barrel bombs against his people,” Kerry said. “Together, the Syrian regime and Russia seem to have rejected diplomacy, in the furtherance of trying to pursue a military victory, over the broken bodies, the bombed-out hospitals, the traumatized children of a long-suffering land.”
In Damascus, meanwhile, Syrian state media accused rebel forces of shelling government-held neighborhoods in Aleppo.
The conflict in Syria has stretched more than five years, claiming more than 400,000 lives and displacing millions of people. “People that are serious about pursuing peace behave differently from the way Russia has chosen how to behave,” Kerry said.
The suspension of talks “does not come lightly,” Kerry said, condemning Russia’s alliance with Assad as “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised.” He said the United States would continue separate military contacts with Russia to enable both sides to pursue campaigns against the Islamic State.
Kerry’s appeals were echoed by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who said he planned meetings with Kerry and Russian envoys in a bid to restart a cease-fire effort.
Kerry, who is making one of his final tours across the Atlantic with the Obama administration, told Europeans to hold fast to the alliances that they built out of the rubble of World War II even as Britain negotiates a divorce from the European Union.
© AFP/File | A picture taken on August 14, 2016 shows collapsed and heavily damaged buildings in the al-Khalediah neighbourhood of the central Syrian city of Homs
“As much as some of us may wish the U.K. vote had gone the other way, the lesson that we have to take from this democratic choice is not that we need less Europe, less U.K.,” Kerry said. “Rather, we need more of both — more security, more prosperity, more collaboration among the U.S., the U.K. and the E.U.”
Otherwise, he said, “there are demagogues out there from the left and the right who fan the fears of change and who believe that bluster, often tinged with bigotry, can provide a pathway to their own power.” He did not cite any specific political figures, but right-wing parties have gained ground in France, Germany and elsewhere.
Britain and the European Union increasingly appear headed for a tough split, as positions harden on both sides ahead of the start of formal negotiations expected by the end of March.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Sunday that she will make limiting immigration a priority in the negotiations, a stance that makes it less likely that her country will preserve the full range of economic benefits it now has as a member of the European Union.
Faced with Europe’s arguments, Kerry acknowledged that the Obama administration may be a bigger cheerleader of Europe than European leaders.
“I encourage you all to believe in yourselves as much as we believe in you,” Kerry said.
Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.
Secretary of State John Kerry (right,) with his man-crush Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo by Getty Images
John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in 2013. AP photo
At this time last year, U.S. Secretary of State john Kerry was still in love with diplomacy in general and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov particular. Kerry did not yet realize that he was playing poker with the mass murders of Moscow. He realized too late — and after too many senseless deaths in Syria. Photo: John Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, on Sunday Sept. 27, 2015. Credit Dominick Reuter, Agence France-Presse, Getty Image
Those were the days…
Peace and Freedom Note: During the last ceasefire, a humanitarian aid truck convoy was bombed and destroyed. The U.S. blamed Russia and its Syrian allies. But Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov rejected those claims, which finally sapped all the misplaced trust U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had for Mr. Lavrov….
Syria — Destroyed aid trucks stand near the rebel-held town of Urum al-Kubra. September 20, 2016. The US, UK and France said Russia bombed the humanitarian aid convoy. Russia denied the charge. Reuters
“All we could see was a child’s feet.” — Members of the Syrian Civil Defense group recovered a body after airstrikes on Saturday in the contested city of Aleppo. More than 90 people died on Friday, and more than 100 on Saturday.Credit Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, via Associated Press.
Kerry and Lavrov pose for a photo at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York, on Sept 23, 2016. PHOTO by REUTERS
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