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Kerry Says Russia 'Knows What It Needs To Do' To Reach Truce In Syria

  • RFE/RL

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (file photo)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia "knows what it has to do" to get a cessation of hostilities in Syria, but that it refuses to take the necessary steps.

Speaking in Brussels a day after Washington suspended talks with Moscow aimed at crafting a lasting cease-fire, Kerry said on October 4 that Moscow must ground Russian and Syrian aircraft that are bombing rebel groups and making it impossible to build a lasting truce.

Kerry was addressing a meeting jointly hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the U.S. Mission to the EU to discuss the future of transatlantic relations.

Kerry said that "Russia has turned a blind eye to [Syrian President Bashar al- Assad's] deplorable use of the weapons of war that he has chosen -- chlorine gas and barrel bombs -- against his people. And, together, the Syrian regime and Russia seemed to have rejected diplomacy in furtherance of trying to pursue a military victory."

He added that "people who are serious about making peace behave differently than the way Russia has chosen to behave."

Kerry also said that, despite Washington's suspension of talks on Syria with Moscow, the United States will continue to work within the United Nations and other groups to press for a cease-fire in the war-torn country.

"We are not giving up on the Syrian people, we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace, we are not going to leave the multi-lateral field," he said. "We are going to continue to try to find a way forward in order to end this war."

Separately, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on October 4 that he would "strongly urge" the United States and Russia to resume their negotiations over Syria. Ban said in Strasbourg that he hopes to meet with Kerry and officials from Russia in Brussels during the ongoing October 4-5 donors conference on Afghanistan.

Russian and Syrian warplanes have waged a relentless bombing campaign against rebel positions in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, since a tentative cease-fire brokered by Moscow and Washington collapsed last week. The breakdown of the cease-fire has made it impossible for humanitarian aid to reach the city where more than 250,000 civilians are trapped by the fighting.

'Blatant Aggression' In Ukraine

Addressing Western tensions with Moscow more broadly, Kerry also said October 4 that the United States and Europe will not accept Moscow's "blatant aggression" in Ukraine.

"The willingness of NATO and EU countries to search for common ground with Russia doesn't relieve us of the obligation to stand our ground on behalf of freedom and international law, which is why we remain steadfast in our support for a stable, united, and democratic Ukraine," he told the forum in Brussels.

He said the United States and the EU insist on a diplomatic solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists are waging an armed conflict against Kyiv, and to Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

He added that sanctions on Russia are "designed solely to encourage a return to peace, stability, and the recognition of legitimate sovereignty." The United States and EU have imposed trade sanctions against Russia since 2014 in protest against Moscow's interference in Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP