PARIS, Dec 10 ― US Secretary of State John Kerry said US and Russian officials would meet today in a bid to stop the Syrian city of Aleppo “being absolutely, completely destroyed”.
Kerry arrived in Paris yesterday ahead of parallel talks today aimed at pushing for a ceasefire in Aleppo, where retreating rebels backed by the United States face an onslaught from Syrian forces supported by Russia.
US officials will meet their Russia counterparts in Geneva to try to “come to some kind of arrangement where we can see how civilians may be protected and what can happen with the armed opposition”, Kerry said.
He did not sound upbeat about the chances of success, however, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin seemingly intent on pushing home their advantage in Aleppo.
The rebels now control only a pocket of Syria’s second city, whose fate is seen as pivotal to the outcome of a nearly six-year-old war that has killed more than 300,000 people.
‘Worst catastrophe since WWII’
“What is happening in Aleppo is the worst catastrophe, what is happening in Syria is the worst catastrophe since World War II itself. It’s unacceptable,” said Kerry at the US embassy in Paris.
He added: “I know people are tired of these meetings, I’m tired of these meetings. People are sort of ‘oh, another meeting’.
“But what am I supposed to do? Go home and have a nice weekend in Massachusetts, while people are dying? Sit there in Washington and do nothing?”
Alongside the Geneva meeting, foreign ministers from the Western and Middle Eastern backers of Syria’s weakened opposition, including Kerry, will gather in Paris today for talks.
“We are working hard with people that we even have disagreements with in order to see if we can find a way, in the name of humanity and decency, to be able to protect those lives and try to separate combatants and move the process forward,” said Kerry.
A US official stressed that the Geneva talks will be at a “technical” level, “not foreign minister level”, to discuss modalities of a possible ceasefire, aid supplies and the evacuation of civilians and rebel fighters.
“Kerry is definitely not going to Geneva, not heading up these talks,” said the official, adding that Washington had long said that the UN must be involved.
Kerry added: “My goal in all this is not just to have a temporary thing, but to get both sides, all of the forces, to the table in Geneva. And that’s what we’re working on.” ― AFP