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US Urges Negotiations between Syria Regime, Opposition as France Accuses Damascus of Mass Crimes

US Urges Negotiations between Syria Regime, Opposition as France Accuses Damascus of Mass Crimes

Friday, 15 December, 2017 - 20:15
The UN says about 400,000 civilians are besieged in Eastern Ghouta as the Syrian regime continues to block aid deliveries. (Reuters)

The United States called on Friday the supporters of the Syrian regime to press it to “fully” take engage in negotiations with the opposition in order to reach a political settlement to their country’s war.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the State Department said the United States wanted the regime’s supporters "to use their leverage to urge the regime to participate fully in tangible negotiations with the opposition in Geneva."

The eighth round of the Geneva talks concluded on Thursday in what United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura called a “missed opportunity” after the regime refused to hold direct talks with the opposition.

He laid most of the blame of the failure at the feet of the regime.

"The United States urges all parties to work seriously toward a political resolution to this conflict or face continued isolation and instability indefinitely in Syria," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

France was more damning on Friday of its assessment of the regime, saying that it has done nothing to reach a peace agreement after almost seven years of war and said it was "committing mass crimes" in the Eastern Ghouta region where 400,000 people are besieged by regime forces.

"The Assad regime never entered in any negotiation since the beginning of the civil war," France's Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud said on Twitter. "They don't look for a political compromise but for the eradication of their enemies."

Despite being a leading backer of the Syrian opposition, France has sought a more pragmatic approach to the Syrian conflict since the arrival of President Emmanuel Macron, saying that the departure of Syrian regime head Bashar Assad was not a precondition for talks.

However, on Friday the lack of progress in Geneva and continuing assault of the besieged rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus brought scathing criticism from Paris.

"There is no alternative to a negotiated political solution agreed by both parties under the auspices of the United Nations," deputy foreign ministry spokesman Alexandre Giorgini told reporters in a daily briefing, reiterating Paris' support for de Mistura and appearing to dismiss a separate Russian initiative planned in Sochi next year.

"We deplore the attitude of the Syrian regime, which has refused to engage in the discussion. The Syrian regime is responsible for the lack of progress in the negotiations," he said.

He also pointed the finger at Russia and Iran, who both back Assad, over their inability to enforce a ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, which according to a September 15 accord between Russia, Turkey and Iran, is included among several de-escalation zones.

"It is therefore urgent that Russia and Iran, guarantors of the Astana process and allies of the Damascus regime, take steps for the cessation of the bombings and (enable) humanitarian aid to arrive safely and without those who need it being hindered," Giorgini said.

The United Nations says about 400,000 civilians are besieged and face "complete catastrophe" because aid deliveries by the Syrian regime were blocked and hundreds of people who need urgent medical evacuation have not been allowed outside the enclave.

"By denying humanitarian access, the Damascus regime is responsible for mass crimes, particularly through the use of the siege as a weapon of war," Giorgini said.

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