Kerry says Syria Peace Efforts must Continue Despite Break with Russia

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on the transatlantic relationship at the Concert Noble in Brussels, Belgium, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS, Oct 4  – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Russia on Tuesday for its “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised decision” to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said efforts to end the war in Syria must continue, in spite of the U.S. decision to break off talks with Moscow.

“I want to be clear that we are not giving up on the Syrian people and we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace,” Kerry said in a speech in Brussels. “We will continue to pursue a meaningful, sustainable, enforceable cessation of hostilities throughout the country – and that includes the grounding of Syrian and Russian combat aircraft in designated areas.”

The United States broke off talks with Russia on Monday on implementing a ceasefire agreement in Syria, accusing Moscow of not living up to its commitments under the deal to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.

Kerry said the United States would work to create conditions for a resumption of peace talks and added that Russia and Syria “know exactly what they need to do.”

He charged that Russia had “turned a blind eye” to Assad’s “deplorable” use of chlorine gas and barrel bombs and suggested they were pursing a scorched earth policy in place of diplomacy.

“Where they make a desert, they call it peace,” he said, quoting the Roman historian Tacitus. He said if Russia was serious about peace, it would have to behave differently than it was now in Syria.

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