UK’s Hammond Says New Initiative Needed for Syria Talks

A man holds a banner during a rally in solidarity with the people of Aleppo in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin, May 2. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said a new initiative was needed to keep dialogue alive in Syria. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

MEXICO CITY, May 3 – British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Monday he was deeply concerned about the state of the ceasefire in Syria and that a new initiative was needed to keep dialogue alive, after a sharp escalation of violence in the city of Aleppo.

Washington and Moscow said on Monday they were working hard to extend the truce to Aleppo, the divided city where fighting, including a missile attack on a hospital, has caused international outrage and put peace talks in doubt.

“There is a need for a new initiative in the Syria dialogue to keep it alive, the Syrian moderate opposition is finding it increasingly difficult to justify their participation in a political process,” Hammond told reporters during a visit to Mexico City.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Geneva meeting other dignitaries on Monday to try to revive the two-month-old U.S. and Russia-sponsored cessation of hostilities, which quieted guns for the first time during the five-year Syrian war.

The Aleppo fighting threatens to wreck the first peace talks involving the warring parties, which are due to resume at an unspecified date after breaking up in April when the opposition delegation walked out citing government ceasefire violations.

Hammond said he hoped for progress in coming days as Russia and the United States broker meetings on Syria in Geneva.

“I expect there to be further international meetings in the next week or so,” Hammond said.

Hammond was also asked about a speech on foreign policy given by U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump last week, whose “America first” rhetoric was interpreted by some U.S. allies as isolationist.

“I very much hope that whatever the outcome of the American elections, that the United States remains a country engaged in the affairs of the world, outward looking,” Hammond said.

He added that irrespective of who won the U.S. presidential election in November, Britain’s relationship with the United States would continue.

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