Secretary of State John Kerry brushed off diplomatic objections from both the Syrian government and rebel groups Monday, saying peace negotiations would proceed as planned.
The Syrian government said over the weekend that it will refuse to make a single concession to rebel groups during peace talks. In turn, rebel groups have demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad play absolutely no role during the transition to a new regime.
“We are not going to give today what we did not give over the past five years,” Syrian official Hilal al-Hilal said Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
But Kerry immediately said the fact of the matter is that Russia and Iran have agreed to a political transition in Syria over the next 18 months. Russia and Iran are the main backers of the Assad regime, so what they say, at least according to Kerry, matters far more than the word of a Syrian official.
“If that’s their attitude, the war does not end,” Kerry said according to the Associated Press. “That is not the Russian attitude. The Russians say (the Syrians) are going to go and they are going to negotiate.” Kerry said anywhere from one to three months it will become apparent whether Russia, Syria and other parties are serious about wanting to negotiate.
While Kerry switched the position of the U.S. government away from seeking immediate regime change in Syria, what has not changed is the U.S.’s strong level of military and financial support for rebel groups opposed to Syrian Assad’s regime.
While the talks were supposed to begin Monday, prolonged disagreement over which parties should be represented at the table has pushed them back to Friday at minimum. Kerry was firm on Friday as the new date, but threw up his hands and said if all parties aren’t serious, civil war will simply continue as it has for nearly five years.
Continuation of the war is likely to add to the death toll of 250,000. Vice President Joe Biden said over the weekend that if no political solution is reached in Syria, the U.S. is prepared to use military action in the region, though only to target the Islamic State.
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