Middle East

Kerry blasts Syria's Assad for 'terrorism'

US Secretary of State's strong words on Assad and Russia come after failing peace talks and continued violence in Syria.

Last updated: 17 Feb 2014 14:39
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Kerry said Assad was more interested in winning on the battlefield than coming to the negotiation table [AFP]

US Secretary of State John Kerry has blamed the Syrian government for stonewalling peace talks, intended to bring the civil war to an end, and told Moscow it had to stop supplying President Bashar al-Assad's regime with weapons.

In Jakarta on Monday, Kerry said that Russia needed to be part of the solution and that Assad was trying to win on the battlefield rather than the negotiating table, a reference to the second phase of peace talks that ended last Friday to little fanfare.

Speaking during a trip to Asia and the Middle East, Kerry said: "The regime stonewalled. They did nothing except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country. And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia."

"Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be contributing so many more weapons and so much more aid that they are in effect enabling Assad to double-down, which is creating an enormous problem."

"It is very clear that Bashar al-Assad is continuing to try to win this (on) the battlefield rather than to (go) to the negotiating table (with) good faith."

'Magnet for terror'

The Russian Foreign Ministry later praised was it called the "positive intent" of the Syrian government delegation at the
talks and said the talks mediator, Lakhdar Brahimi, "should not stray towards unilateral accusations and blame only one side for the stalled dialogue."

The ministry said the Syrian government was "completely justified" in its efforts to make discussion of fighting "terrorism" a top priority.

Brahimi said on Friday that the first two rounds of peace talks had not achieved much but that the two rival Syrian delegations had agreed on an agenda for a third round at an unspecified date. Both sides blame each other for the lack of progress. The government delegation insists on talking about terrorism - a term it applies to all armed groups - while the opposition delegation wants to talk about the establishment of a transitional government that does not include Assad.

Using unusually strong language Kerry said: "As for Assad, who says he wants to talk about terrorism, Assad himself is a magnet for terrorists. He's the principal magnet of the region for attracting foreign fighters to Syria.

"Moreover, Assad himself is engaging in state-sanctioned terror against his own people. When you indiscriminately drop bombs on women and children, when starve people and torture people by the thousands, those are acts of terror."

Threat to Lebanon

The Syrian conflict, which has lasted almost three years, has killed more than 130,000 people, displaced millions more and is destabilising the country's neighbours.

In-depth coverage of escalating violence across Syria

On Sunday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah defended the group's decision to send fighters to Syria.

"If the armed groups control Syria, what will Lebanon's future be?" he asked. "Where are your priests, where are your nuns, where are your statues of the Virgin Mary?" he added, referring to Syrian priests and nuns kidnapped by fighters, who have also desecrated churches.

"This is a danger that threatens all Lebanese... If they (armed rebels) have the opportunity to control the border regions, their goal will be to transform Lebanon into a part of their Islamic state," he said during a televised address.

Nasrallah also told Arab political forces to "stop the war on Syria," promising that if they left the country alone, his group would also withdraw.


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