Kerry: Syrian FM’s Comments on Assad Disruptive to Peace

Kerry: Syrian FM’s Comments on Assad Disruptive to Peace
Sun Mar 13, 2016 22:15:31

US Secretary of State John Kerry has slammed as “disruptive to peace” remarks by his Syrian counterpart who has described President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster as a “red line.”

Speaking after talks with European allies in Paris on Sunday, Kerry said Walid Muallem was “clearly trying to disrupt the process... (he was) clearly trying to send a message of deterrence to others.”

“But the fact is (Assad’s) strongest sponsors, Russia and Iran, have both adopted ... an approach which dictates that there must be a political transition and that we must have a presidential election at some time,” Kerry said on the eve of a new round of peace talks in Geneva.

Previous talks collapsed in February, after the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which is backed by Saudi Arabia, insisted on Assad’s removal as a prerequisite for any peace process.

Muallem told a Damascus news conference on Saturday that “we will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency... Bashar al-Assad is a red line.”

“If they continue with this approach, there’s no reason for them to come to Geneva,” he asserted.

The UN-brokered negotiations, due to begin on Monday, are the latest in a series of international efforts to end the five-year conflict in Syria, which, according to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, has killed more than 470,000 people and injured some 1.9 million more.

Fighting across Syria has dropped significantly since a landmark ceasefire took effect two weeks ago.

Kerry said violence has decreased by 80-90 percent since the truce, something he described as “very, very significant” news ahead of the talks; Press TV reported.

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