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Kerry Says U.S. On Verge Of Suspending Cooperation With Moscow In Syria

RFE/RL September 29, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was on the verge of suspending talks with Russia on a cease-fire agreement in Syria, as a devastating bombardment of the city of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian warplanes continued.

Kerry's comments on September 29 came hours after the Kremlin dismissed U.S. threats to suspend cooperation with Moscow in Syria and said Russian forces would continue to support a government offensive on rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, confirmed that Kerry spoke by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 29 about the "fragility" of the situation in Syria.

A U.S. spokesman also reiterated after those phone consultations that Washington was "very serious" about the potential of suspending its arrangement with Russia on Syria unless "significant steps" are taken by Moscow.

Washington and Russia have been negotiating for months over the potential terms of a lasting cease-fire in Syria. The latest truce collapsed on September 19 after several days of calm.

Aleppo, once Syria's largest city, has suffered from intensive air strikes since September 19.

Kerry told a conference in Washington on September 29 that the ongoing bombing campaign amounted to war crimes.

"We are on the verge of suspending the discussion because it is irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place to be sitting there trying to take things seriously," Kerry said.

"It is one of those moments where we are going to have to pursue other alternatives," he said.

Earlier, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov dismissed a warning from Washington about the attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians in Aleppo as an "emotional outburst" and said it was tantamount to supporting terrorism.

Ryabkov rejected Washington's calls for a seven-day pause in the Aleppo offensive as "unacceptable," saying it would give militants time to regroup.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also described the State Department remarks as awkward and said the "war on terror" in Syria would continue.

In his September 29 speech, Kerry did not specify any new approach for bringing peace to Syria.

Kerry also said it was unlikely that the United States would go to war in Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after phone consultations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 29 that Russia has a "special responsibility to calm violence and give a political process a chance" in Syria.

Merkel's office said she and Erdogan agreed that "repeated flagrant violations against humanitarian international law" in Aleppo are "unacceptable" and that "a cease-fire is more urgent than ever."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS, and Interfax

Source: http://www.rferl.org/a/russia -u-s-syria-statement-emotional- outburst/28020328.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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