Aleppo ‘opposition’ blocked humanitarian aid & held civilians ‘on some occasions’ – Kerry
Syrian “moderates” indeed hampered humanitarian efforts in Aleppo, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted, accusing Moscow and Damascus of leaving them little choice. He urged anti-government forces to engage in talks to end the crisis.
“It is true that there have been some occasions where certain elements of the opposition have threatened people who were going to leave [Aleppo], and in some cases prevented humanitarian assistance from being delivered,” Kerry said, answering’s RT question at a press briefing following a meeting of US, European and Arab foreign ministers in Paris on Saturday.
Having said that such actions by rebel groups are “a very serious offense,” the US official however claimed that Washington has “taken steps with respect to anyone we have communication with” to call on them to not engage in “absolutely unacceptable behavior.”
Kerry also urged the Syrian opposition “to think about how they could help save Aleppo and save the lives of many people by being willing to negotiate.”
There is no way the Syrian war could end “militarily,” America’s top diplomat said, adding that the crisis can only be solved through peaceful talks.
The anti-government groups should “actually start a genuine discussion about the political solution, about the transition, about the new constitution, about election,” the US Secretary of State said.
Following the meeting with his partners within the anti-terrorist coalition, the US diplomat also called on Moscow and Damascus to “show a little grace” in diplomacy.
“Russia and Assad have a moment here where they are obviously in a dominant position, they have an ability to be able to show a little grace, and sometimes in diplomacy a little grace goes a long way,” he said.
The US official said both Russian and Syrian governments had been “bombing the fighters” who are already “greatly outnumbered and outpowered.”
“They don't have airplanes, helicopters or large artillery,” Kerry said. He also insisted that rebel and militant groups in Aleppo have been left without a choice “as to whether or not they want to stay or be able to leave safely.”
Saying that in recent days Moscow and Washington have been involved in a series of conversations, with him and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov having had several meetings, Kerry said that there are still a lot of issues to be solved.
“It’s been no secret to anyone involved in this ... if Aleppo were to fall ... the war does not end. It may even create more jihadists and more people who are more committed to seek revenge and try to continue to prosecute their interests,” he said.
The main goal of the Saturday talks was to “bring likeminded people together in order to build a consensus about the difficulty of the choices,” Kerry said, answering a question from a Washington Post reporter who asked what specifically was accomplished at the meeting.
“We assembled here to talk with urgency about what additional steps - if any - or what creative mechanisms can be employed after a number of years now of different attempts to try to bring the parties together to end [the war],” Kerry added.
US Secretary of State praised the efforts of the “68 nation coalition” and others “like Iran and Russia” in battling the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists and noted the impressive progression made in this fight.
“And as we begin the days of wrapping up Obama administration, I want to make it crystal clear – that we have made enormous progress in that regard, a number of communities have been liberated and the people have been able to return to their homes,” said Kerry. “More than 55 percent of the territory that was taken by Daesh is now liberated... Very significant portions of the upper level leadership have been eliminated from the battlefield.”