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Kerry slams Syria ceasefire offer

Top US diplomat says proposal of limited ceasefire and prisoner exchange is a diversion from aims of Geneva talks.

Last updated: 18 Jan 2014 05:36
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US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the Syrian regime it would fail to divert next week's peace talks away from the aim of installing a new government.

Syria's foreign minister said on Friday he has handed Russia plans for a ceasefire in Aleppo, and was ready to exchange lists with rebel forces on a possible prisoner swap.

Earlier on Friday, during a news conference in Moscow, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said he had handed his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, details of the ceasefire, plus plans for a prisoner exchange and the opening of humanitarian corridors in Syria.

"Taking into the account the role of the Russian Federation in ending the bloodshed in Syria, as well as our trustworthy relations, I have handed Minister Lavrov today a plan of security measures in Aleppo," Muallem said.

"In that regard I asked Minister Lavrov to use his contacts to implement this plan and to establish a specific time when all military actions in this area should be ceased."

But Kerry said the announcements were an attempt to divert Geneva II away from instilling the agreements laid down in Geneva I.

"I'm not particularly, you know, surprised that he is trying to divert this. He's been doing this for months, trying to make himself the protector of Syria against extremists," Kerry said of Assad.

Kerry slammed alleged comments from the Syrian regime that the Geneva II peace talks were to discuss ways to combat the rise of terrorist groups plaguing the country as "revisionism."

Speaking on Friday, Kerry accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of funding and ceding territory to hardline fighters in order to increase fears surrounding rebel groups.

"Nobody is going to be fooled," Kerry said. "They can bluster, they can protest, they can put out distortions, the bottom line is we are going to Geneva to implement Geneva I, and if Assad doesn't do that he will invite greater response".

Kerry also reiterated the point that talks would only be successful if the Syrian regime accepted a transitional government.

"I believe, as we begin to get to Geneva and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear that there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he's going to be part of that future. It's not going to happen," Kerry said.

Transitional government

Syria's foreign minister said on Friday he has handed Russia plans for a ceasefire in Aleppo, and was ready to exchange lists with rebel forces on a possible prisoner swap.

The offer from al-Muallem came hours before the main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Coalition, was due to decide whether it would participate in peace talks scheduled by the UN next week in Geneva.

"The desires and aspirations of the Syrian people are important to us," he said. "I believe the coalition will arrive at a decision for the good of the Syrian people".

Washington and Moscow have been trying to negotiate confidence-building measures to force the two sides to the table in Geneva. The SNC has previously demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad before it commits to talks.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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