Syrian PM's comments on Assad disruptive to peace: Kerry
Iran Press TV
Sun Mar 13, 2016 6:37PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry has slammed as "disruptive to peace" remarks by his Syrian counterpart who has described President Bashar al-Assad's ouster as a "red line."
Speaking after talks with European allies in Paris on Sunday, Kerry said Walid Muallem was "clearly trying to disrupt the process... (he was) clearly trying to send a message of deterrence to others."
"But the fact is (Assad's) strongest sponsors, Russia and Iran, have both adopted... an approach which dictates that there must be a political transition and that we must have a presidential election at some time," Kerry said on the eve of a new round of peace talks in Geneva.
Previous talks collapsed in February, after the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which is backed by Saudi Arabia, insisted on Assad's removal as a prerequisite for any peace process.
Muallem told a Damascus news conference on Saturday that "we will not talk with anyone who wants to discuss the presidency... Bashar al-Assad is a red line."
"If they continue with this approach, there's no reason for them to come to Geneva," he asserted.
The UN-brokered negotiations, due to begin on Monday, are the latest in a series of international efforts to end the five-year conflict in Syria, which, according to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, has killed more than 470,000 people and injured some 1.9 million more.
Fighting across Syria has dropped significantly since a landmark ceasefire took effect two weeks ago.
Kerry said violence has decreased by 80-90 percent since the truce, something he described as "very, very significant" news ahead of the talks.
Kerry threatens new sanctions on Iran
Elsewhere in his remarks, Kerry threatened Iran with new sanctions over its recent missile tests, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Tel Aviv allies to react.
Netanyahu ordered Israeli diplomats to demand the P5+1 group of countries, who reached a nuclear agreement with Iran last July, take immediate action against Tehran's "gross transgressions."
On Tuesday, Iran fired Qiam ballistic missiles from silo-based launchers in different locations across the country and on Wednesday, it successfully test-fired two more ballistic missiles of the Qadr family.
"The missiles (tests) are a violation of the UN Security Council, because they are longer than the distance that is allowed," Kerry said in Paris. "Because of that they represent a potential threat to countries in the region and beyond."
According to Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Division Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, Qadr-H missile has a range of 1,700 kilometers while Qadr-F missile can destroy targets some 2,000 kilometers away.
US envoy to the United Nations Samantha Power said Friday that the tests are a threat to Israel, adding Washington has asked the UN Security Council (UNSC) to discuss the issue.
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