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Kerry, Lavrov to Discuss Syria on Saturday

By Nike Ching October 12, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet this Saturday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and diplomats from regional powers to discuss the Syria crisis in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Kerry also will discuss Syria in a meeting with regional and international partners next Sunday in London, the State Department announced.

"The Secretary will meet with foreign ministers from key regional partners in Lausanne and key regional and international partners in London to discuss a multilateral approach to resolving the crisis in Syria," said State Department spokesperson John Kirby on Wednesday.

The multilateral diplomatic efforts came after Washington halted direct cease-fire talks with Russia over Syria amid continuing Russian military strikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The upcoming talks on Syria will discuss approaches including "a sustained cessation of violence and the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries," said Kirby.

On Tuesday, Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told an audience in Washington that bilateral relations between the two powers were "moving in the wrong direction."

Kislyak blamed the U.S. decision to unilaterally "freeze" normal channels with Russia, defending Russia's bombings in Aleppo are "on a fully legal basis" and by the invitation of Syrian government.

"The government of Syria needs to be able to continue to preserve statehood of state, " said Kislyak, "if that kind of country will become a totally failed state, that would be a fertile ground for all kind of extremism and terrorism expanding from the region."

Russian bombing resumes

Monitors said Tuesday Russian jets resumed heavy bombing in rebel-held eastern districts of Aleppo, killing more than 20 people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights called Tuesday's onslaught "the heaviest Russian bombardment" since the government of President Bashar al-Assad announced last week it would cut back on airstrikes, ostensibly to allow civilians to disarm and leave opposition-held neighborhoods.

Moscow has repeatedly denied attacking civilians in Syria, insisting its sole aim is targeting terror groups in support of the Assad government.

To that end, Russia on Saturday blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by France and Spain to end the Aleppo bombing. Monitors and aid workers say airstrikes have killed more than 300 people in the northern city -- most all of them civilians -- since September.

At the Vatican, Pope Francis on Wednesday called for an immediate cease-fire in Syria.

Speaking at his weekly general audience , the pope said a halt in fighting should be put in place long enough for civilians, particularly children, to escape areas subject to bombings.

Previous international efforts to establish a cease-fire have quickly eroded throughout the country's conflict that has stretched on for more than five years.

Putin cancels France visit

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, under intense Western criticism for Moscow's military role in Syria, canceled a planned visit to France after French President Francois Hollande insisted their upcoming meeting focus solely on Syria.

Putin's move came a day after French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that Russia could face war crime charges in the International Criminal Court, the ICC, for its ongoing bombing campaign in Aleppo.

It is not clear how the International Criminal Court could investigate the Aleppo bombings, because neither Russia nor Syria is a member of the ICC.

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