Kerry demands halt to Russia’s Syria bombing

US Secretary of State John Kerry has demanded that Russia stop bombing the Syrian opposition, blaming Moscow for the collapse in peace talks.

Friday February 5 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 15, 2015. Mr Kerry demanded on Thursday that Russia stop bombing the Syrian opposition, implicitly blaming Moscow for the collapse in peace talks. PHOTO | SERGEI KARPUKHIN |

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 15, 2015. Mr Kerry demanded on Thursday that Russia stop bombing the Syrian opposition, implicitly blaming Moscow for the collapse in peace talks. PHOTO | SERGEI KARPUKHIN | AFP

By AFP
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LONDON, Thursday

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday demanded that Russia stop bombing the Syrian opposition, implicitly blaming Moscow for the collapse in peace talks.

Speaking in London ahead of a conference on the Syrian humanitarian effort, Mr Kerry said he had called Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for a “robust” discussion.

In Geneva on Wednesday, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended attempts to begin a dialogue between Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Syrian opposition.

UN SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION

Alongside Britain’s Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond, Mr Kerry read out sections of UN Security Council resolution 2254, passed in December, calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“Russia has a responsibility, as do all parties, to live up to it,” he said.

“So I had a conversation this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov.

(READ: Russia, US agree joint push for peace in Syria)

We discussed, and we agreed, that we need to discuss how to implement the ceasefire.”

Kerry also said that both parties to the conflict - the rebels as well as the regime and its allies - must allow access to besieged areas for humanitarian aid.

“So we had a robust discussion this morning about that. We will be continuing the discussion,” Mr Kerry said.

“Foreign Minister Lavrov and I will talk again on Friday or Saturday as we further this process and find the way forward to be able to implement this resolution fully.”

KREMLIN'S RESPONSE

The Russian foreign ministry said the ministers had agreed to do everything possible to make the break in Syrian peace talks “as short as possible.”

According to the Moscow read-out, Mr Lavrov also voiced concern about “unacceptable” preliminary conditions being put forward by “some representatives” of the Syrian opposition.

Moscow added that the two top diplomats - who are set to meet for talks in Munich on February 11 - agreed to coordinate possible steps to bring humanitarian aid to affected areas by air.

As part of a contact group known as the International Syria Support Group, Russia and the United States worked together to get the warring parties to the table in Geneva.

But, while Washington and its ally Saudi Arabia remain close to the opposition, Moscow has continued to take Assad’s side and its aircraft bomb opposition targets daily.

This has contributed to the mood of distrust at the talks, and the United Nations has proved unable to get the sides into serious negotiations on a political settlement.

After a breakfast meeting with a small group of European and Middle Eastern powers, Mr Kerry and Mr Hammond headed into a donors conference to raise money to aid Syrian civilians.

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