World leaders react to the halt of Syria peace talks

The Geneva talks have been suspended after Syrian opposition said they would not negotiate until bombarding civilians came to an end

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World leaders reacted on Thursday to the suspension of the Syria peace talks in Geneva, placing the blame on the intensified attacks by the Syrian army, backed by Russian airstrikes, on opposition-held areas.

Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week pause in the Geneva talks on Wednesday, the first attempt to negotiate an end to Syria’s war in two years, after Saudi-backed opposition delegation coordinator Riad Hijab said they would not negotiate unless the government stopped bombarding civilian areas, lift blockades on besieged towns and release detainees.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Thursday the Syrian government had refused to cooperate with the U.N. envoy at the talks and that this was to blame for their suspension.

Speaking at a press conference in Riyadh Adel al-Jubeir said intensified Russian military operations in Syria were aimed at provoking the Syrian opposition.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian government and Russia must halt attacks on civilians and allow unfettered humanitarian access throughout Syria.

Kerry said December’s U.N. resolution on Syria, supported by Russia, was clear. Aid agencies needed to be allowed to reach those in need and the shelling of civilian targets had to stop.

Syrian peace talks have been undermined by a sudden increase in aerial bombing and military activity in the country, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in London on Thursday, urging a return to the negotiating table.

“It is deeply disturbing that the initial steps of the talks have been undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase in aerial bombing and military activities within Syria,” Ban told a donor conference.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the Syrian peace talks were pointless while President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Russia continued their attacks in the country.

“Russia continues to kill people in Syria. Could there be such a peace gathering? Could there be such peace talks?” Erdogan said in a speech in Peru.

“In an environment where children are still being killed, such attempts do not have any function apart from making things easier for the tyrant,” he added.

“They always convene, get together, eat, drink and then leave. Now they are giving a date for end-February. Let’s watch. You will see that once it is Feb. 28 they will postpone again,” he said at a university in Lima, the Peruvian capital.

British Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday urged a political transition in Syria “however difficult” it might prove to be.

“The long-term solution to the crisis in Syria can only be reached with a political transition and we must continue to work towards that, however difficult it may be,” Cameron said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said all interested parties had a responsibility to agree a ceasefire in Syria. But she said the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is responsible above all,.

Russia said Thursday it regretted the suspension of the peace talks and said it hoped the negotiations would continue after the West accused Moscow of seeking a military solution to the war.

“One can express regret in this regard but no one expected that everything will be simple and quick,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

He said the Kremlin hoped it would “soon” become clear when and how the talks would resume.

“It is unlikely someone expected immediate results from the first round. This would probably be short-sighted,” Peskov said.


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