Kerry warns Assad regime not to disrupt Geneva peace talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry indicates Syrian regime purposely trying to unsettle Geneva peace talks by saying Assad’s position in Syria’s future is out of discussion

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a news conference after meeting over the crisis in the Mideast, at the Quai d'Orsay ministry in Paris, France, on March 13, 2016.

Updated Mar 14, 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that the Syrian regime was trying "to disrupt" the Geneva peace talks process with its comments from the day before that ruled out any discussion of the fate of the Syrian autocrat Bashar al Assad during the negotiations.

The Syrian regime said on Saturday that it would not discuss presidential elections during the peace talks in Geneva this week or hold talks with any party wishing to discuss the question of the presidency.

On Sunday, Syria's UN ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, head of the regime delegation at the Geneva peace talks, rejected opposition demands to move quickly into substantive talks about a political transition.

"There's nothing called a transitional period," Ja'afari said.

"These are wordings that we have to be careful about. This discussion will come at the appropriate time," he said, adding the talks needed to work on preparatory issues first.

The US and France said that comments by Syrian regime officials, ahead of a new round of peace talks, were a provocation and Russia and Iran would need to show that the Assad regime was "living up to" what had been agreed on.

"It's a provocation ... a bad sign and doesn't correspond to the spirit of the ceasefire," French Foreign Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, told a news conference with his British, German, Italian, US and EU counterparts.

Kerry also warned the Syrian regime and its backers not to test the boundaries of a two-week-long cessation of hostilities that has sharply reduced the levels on violence in the conflict.

The war-torn country has currently been experimenting with a fragile cessation of hostilities since Feb. 27 following a major agreement brokered by the US and Russia.

The United Nations hopes that the agreement, which is less binding than a formal ceasefire and was not directly signed by the warring sides in Syria, can precede a more formal ceasefire.

US top diplomat has also accused the regime of carrying out most violations of the truce, urging Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to look at how Assad was acting.

"President Assad is singing on a completely different song sheet and sent his foreign minister out yesterday to try to act as a spoiler and take off the table what President Putin and the Iranians have agreed to," Kerry said.

Talks are set to resume on Monday in Geneva, but diplomats indicate huge challenges ahead as the lead opposition negotiator has said a political transition could not start unless Assad was no longer in place.

TRTWorld, Reuters