U.S. says Assad chooses ‘battlefield over peace talks’

Secretary of State John Kerry slammed Russia for enabling Assad to stay in power in the war-torn country

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of stonewalling in recent peace talks with the opposition.

Kerry said the regime was “still trying to win on the battlefield rather than negotiating in good faith.”

The diplomat said Assad's team "refused to open up one moment of discussion" during meetings last week in Geneva, which ended with no progress toward breaking the impasse in the nearly three-year-old conflict in Syria.


He also slammed Russia, a Syrian ally, for enabling Assad to stay in power in the war-torn country.

Infographic: Deciding Syria’s fate

Infographic: Deciding Syria’s fate
Infographic: Deciding Syria’s fate

“Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be distributing so much more weapons and so much more aid that they're in fact enabling Assad to double-down. Which is creating an enormous problem,” Kerry told reporters in Jakarta.

Russia on Monday dismissed U.S. claims.

“We have done everything we have promised,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, referring to Moscow’s efforts to get the Damascus regime to hold direct peace talks with opponents.

“First of all, we are working with the Syrian authorities on a daily basis, and second of all, statistics clearly show that the main problems are created not by the regime but by the terrorist and extremist groups that have spread across Syria and that do not answer to any political structure.”

The so-called Geneva II process was initiated by the United States, which backs the Syrian opposition coalition, and Moscow, which supports the government in Damascus.

But the second round of the talks ended in acrimony on Saturday, throwing the future of the negotiations to end the three-year conflict into doubt.

(With AFP)