Kerry: Russia taking Aleppo won’t end civil war

US Secretary of State warns Russia that seizing Aleppo may further radicalize opposition forces

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US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Wednesday that seizing the city of Aleppo will not help end the Syrian civil war and may further radicalize opposition forces. Speaking as officials from the US, Russia and Syria’s neighbors met in Geneva to seek ways to restore a ceasefire in the civil war, Kerry said Russia's bombardment of rebel-held areas was a mistake.

Moscow argues that it is supporting Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad against al-Qaeda-linked “terrorists” and blames Washington for failing to separate moderate rebels from the hardliners. But, speaking in Washington after talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kerry said: “Every bomb that’s dropped by Russia and the Assad regime is radicalizing more and more people.”


“If you don’t have a political settlement you can’t have peace and so Russia needs to understand this is not making things better, it’s making things worse. And we have put on the table an opportunity for Russia to make a different choice, a simple choice,” he said.

‘Humanitarian pause’

A “humanitarian pause” announced by Russia went into effect on Thursday in the Syrian army’s devastating Moscow-backed assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo to allow civilians and fighters who want to leave. Russia has said the pause will continue until at least 1600 GMT and could be extended. The Syrian army has said it will last three days. Syrian and Russian warplanes already halted strikes on rebel districts from 0700 GMT on Tuesday.

The Syrian army has said it is opening eight corridors to provide safe passage for the more than 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel areas to leave the city. It has said two of them can also be used by rebel fighters but called on them to leave behind their weapons. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said the truce would be long enough to safely evacuate just 200 wounded from the devastated east of the city.

‘Strongly condemn’ Russia

EU leaders plan to “strongly condemn” Russia at their summit on Thursday for its alleged attacks on civilians in Syria’s Aleppo, urge an end to fighting and call for a revived political process. A draft of their planned statement omits the threat of sanctions, despite such calls from the United States and Britain, but it sharpens the tone against Russia.

“The European Council strongly condemns the attacks by the Syrian regime and its allies, notably Russia, on civilians in Aleppo,” according to the draft. It asks them to urgently allow “unhindered humanitarian access to Aleppo” and to other parts of Syria while calling “for an immediate cessation of hostilities and for resumption of a credible political process under UN auspices.”

The draft warns that “those responsible for breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be held accountable.” In it the 28 leaders also ask EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Commission, the EU executive, to continue pursuing medical evacuations in cooperation with the United Nations.

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