How Kerry sums up the five-year Syrian crisis in one answer
The US Secretary of State summed up his answer on what could potentially unfold in Aleppo
When United States Secretary of State John Kerry was asked what expectations were of Russia, US and Syrian opposition on Aleppo, he summed up the entire five-year ongoing conflict in Syria in one answer, at the NATO foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday in Brussels.
Kerry started off by recounting the early days of the Syrian revolution, when people took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations demanding basic rights, and were met with bullets and thugs.
He then moved on to the armed revolution, and how it became infiltrated with radical entities, and how meetings suggesting a ceasefire and political solutions were refused.
And summed up his answer on what could potentially unfold in Aleppo, and Syria in general.
Read how Kerry depicts the years of destruction, death, and war in his reply.
Mr Kirby: The first question today comes from Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.
Question: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, with the new government offenses in Aleppo, the city appears on the verge of falling within days, if not within hours. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said today that the United States had revoked a plan discussed with you in Rome last week to evacuate civilians and opposition fighters from the city. He said anyone who remained there would be eliminated. The rebels say they’re discussing the evacuation – their evacuation with the United States, although they’ve not yet agreed to us – to it. Can you tell us the status of the talks with both Russia and the opposition and what the prospects are that anything can be agreed before Aleppo falls?
Secretary Kerry: Well, Karen, let me – I’m going to take a moment in answering this question, because it’s important to have a context and to put this in that sort of context.
As the Arab Spring broke out and moved through a number of countries, Syria proved not to be immune to the expression of hope of young people in its country. And so after Tahrir Square in Egypt and after Tunisia, demonstrations took place in Damascus by young people who wanted jobs and wanted a future. And those young people were met by regime thugs who beat them up and injured many of them. And their parents didn’t like what had happened to those kids. So the parents went out and demonstrated on behalf of their kids and protested the way they’d been treated. And those parents and the other demonstrators were met with bullets and guns. And that is how Syria began, folks. That is – this is about the rights of people in a country who sought a better life and wanted to demonstrate and were met with brutality. And that brutality led to an increasing insurgency – excuse me – representing an opposition to the Assad regime.
Now, out of that battle grew radicalized entities. And some of those radicalized entities received support from various places in various parts of the world, particularly in that region. And they got weapons and they fought on. A number of countries – Iran and Russia particularly – supported Assad in his fight against that, as did Hizballah, which we have labeled a terrorist organization and which is a terrorist organization.
So that fight has been going on now for five years plus. When we assembled in Vienna a couple of years ago to begin the process of trying to create a political direction for trying to resolve the war, we brought everybody to the table, including Russia and Iran. And we sought a ceasefire. And let me make it clear that at that point in time Russia and Iran both supported a ceasefire when we were in Vienna. But the opposition would not buy into a ceasefire; they didn’t want to have a ceasefire. And there was a refusal to embrace the ceasefire, despite many of us saying that’s the best way to get to the table and have a negotiation in order to resolve this politically. But people chose to fight. And from that day until today, there’s been a loss of territory and a loss of life way beyond what any of us wanted to see unfold.
So we’re not the fighters on the ground – they are. They have to make their choices. And the fact is that, most recently in discussions, there has been discussion of trying to move people out in order to save Aleppo. But until this moment, there has not been an agreement on how that would happen or how those people would move out or how they might be protected. So we have been meeting. We are trying to find a way to get to the table, so we can have that negotiation that many of us wanted to have begin two years ago or before that, but which the participants were unwilling – and that’s both sides, by the way. Assad has never stopped fighting, never stopped prosecuting the war, and never shown the willingness to actually engage in that kind of a discussion that could bring the war to a close.
So you’ve got to have the parties prepared to be able to come to the table. Now Russia says that Assad is prepared to come to the table. They say that’s part of their agreement that they would support him, that he has to engage in good faith in a negotiating process. And I am, personally, deeply in favor of putting that to the test, of trying to get to Geneva in order to be able to negotiate the political outcome that is essential. Why? Because even if Aleppo falls – and it might or it might not; I can’t tell you – but it’s undergoing an unbelievable bombardment, barrage of indiscriminate killing that is putting enormous pressure on everybody there. But I don’t know what will happen.
I do know this: Even if it did fall, Aleppo will not change the fundamental underlying complexity of this war. If Assad takes over Aleppo, is the war going to end? No. Will he have solved the political challenge of bringing people together to unite the country? No. Will many of the people who have been embittered as a consequence of what has gone on in Aleppo continue to fight and blow themselves up or put a car bomb in place or a suicide vest with a – yes, the war will continue. The violence will continue.
And so if you’re going to rebuild Syria, is Syria going to be rebuilt by Assad alone somehow, after Aleppo were to fall, if it fell? The answer is no. It’s going to take hundreds of billions of dollars, with the global community being willing to come together. And the global community will not be willing to come together to do anything about Aleppo unless there is a political settlement. So my hope is that this week in our continued conversation with the Russians we can get them to understand the imperative of getting to that table, having the negotiation, and of not inflaming passions more with the total destruction of Aleppo.
So that’s where we are. We’ll see what happens. There may or may not be a meeting towards the latter part of the week. I will see Foreign Minister Lavrov in Hamburg at the OSCE. We are scheduled to meet, and we can have a conversation about whether or not we can actually find a better way forward at this moment in time.