Middle East

Kerry in Abu Dhabi for Syria talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) walks with Ambassador Michael Corbin (L) and Shihab Al Faheem, Assistant Undersecretary for Protocol Affairs, after arriving at Abu Dhabi International airport February 17, 2014. (REUTERS/Evan Vucci/Pool)

ABU DHABI: US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Abu Dhabi late Monday for talks on Syria and the Middle East hours after criticising Russia for "enabling" the Assad regime.

Arriving from Jakarta on the sixth day of his latest diplomatic tour, Kerry began a meeting with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed. He is expected to join them later for dinner.

"They will discuss important regional issues of mutual concern including the ongoing situation in Syria, specifically the humanitarian crisis and the Syrian regime's unwillingness to engage constructively in the Geneva talks," a senior State Department official said.

Earlier after meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, Kerry lashed out at Russia for supplying arms to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite committing to trying to find a political solution to end the three-year war.

The Syrian regime "stonewalled" the Geneva peace talks, which ended in failure at the weekend, and continued to "destroy their own country," Kerry told reporters during a visit to the Indonesian capital.

"And I regret to say they're doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia," he said.

"Russia needs to be a part of the solution and not be distributing so much more weapons and so much more aid that they're in fact enabling Assad to double-down. Which is creating an enormous problem."

The United States has become increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in trying to oust Assad and bring in a transitional government to end the war which erupted in 2011, has cost over 136,000 lives and sent millions fleeing their homes.

But the adminstration of US President Barack Obama, despite being the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, has steadfastly refused to provide heavy weapons to the rebels fighting Assad.

As the uprising has descended into sectarian warfare, riddled with outside foreign fighters, concerns have risen in Washington that arms could fall easily into the hands of Islamic extremists.

Kerry said Russia "has stood up publicly with me on several occasions and said they're committed to that transition government... yet we have not seen the kind of effort to create the dynamic by which that can be achieved."

No date was set for a third round of peace talks and it was unclear whether they would be held at all.

Kerry also planned to brief the leaders of the United Arab Emirates on talks with Iran, which are to resume Tuesday in Vienna with the aim of hammering out a comprehensive deal to rein in Tehran's controversial nuclear programme.





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