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Dhaka Tribune

US blames Damascus for 'paralyzing' peace talks

Update : 17 Feb 2014, 02:54 PM

The United States accused Damascus on Monday of paralyzing Geneva peace talks, while Russia said nations backing Syrian rebels were leaning toward a military, not a negotiated, outcome to a civil war whose death toll exceeds 140,000.

A second round of talks in Geneva broke up on Saturday with chief mediator Lakhdar Brahimi lamenting a failure to advance much beyond agreement on an agenda for a third round later.

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry said President Bashar al-Assad's government was behind the impasse, aided and abetted by Russia and other allies of Damascus.

"The regime stonewalled. They did nothing except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country. And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia," he said in Jakarta during a trip to Asia and the Middle East.

Kerry appeared to be trying to tighten diplomatic pressure on Assad to reach a political settlement that would end government attacks on rebel-held areas and relieve the dilemma of tens of thousands of Syrians cut off from humanitarian aid.

Pressing Moscow to wring a more flexible stance from Assad, he said: "Russia needs to be a part of the solution", rather than helping the Syrian leader with arms and other support.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back, citing "evidence that certain sponsors of the opposition are starting to create a new structure" bringing in Assad foes who have left the main opposition National Coalition.

"In other words, a course is being set to move away from the negotiations track and once again place bets on a military scenario," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying at a joint news conference after talks with his Eritrean counterpart.

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday he was considering new ways to pressure Assad, but gave no details.

Russia has shielded Assad from Western and Arab pressure since the conflict began in March 2011, using its veto power to block UN Security Council resolutions and insisting that his exit from power cannot be a precondition for peace talks.

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