Kerry Says Assad’s Actions Drawing Terrorists Into Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry said actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are drawing terrorists to Syria and that the U.S. hopes Russian efforts to broker Syrian peace talks can ease the situation.

“We hope that the Russian efforts could be helpful; we hope that the UN efforts” can “have an effect,” Kerry said after a meeting with United Nations Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura today in Geneva.

Kerry called on the Assad regime to “think about the consequences of their actions, which are attracting more and more terrorists to Syria, basically because of their efforts to remove Assad.” De Mistura said a political solution is needed.

More than 3 million Syrians had fled their country by mid-2014, the UN said on Jan. 7. After almost four years of war, nearly three-quarters of the population has been displaced, Kerry said. Fighting in Syria killed 76,021 people in 2014, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Russia has been trying to arrange talks in Moscow on Jan. 26 to restart peace negotiations between the government and opposition leaders. Opposition figures have recently said they won’t attend because of doubts about Russia’s impartiality.

De Mistura, who Kerry said will travel to Damascus next week, has been promoting a proposal to freeze fighting in Aleppo.

De Mistura said he will continue “pushing for Aleppo, because Aleppo has become an iconic example of where things could start sending the best signal, in other words that bombing, shelling, barrel-bombing, mortar-shelling would stop, and bring some humanitarian aid, which means giving some hope to the Syrian people.”

The envoy said that “sometimes there is a feeling that Syria is” being put on “the back burner.”

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