Middle East

World won't be fooled by Assad regime at talks: Kerry

Secretary of State John Kerry talks about Syria, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned the Syrian regime Friday it would fail to divert next week's peace talks away from the aim of installing a new government.

Accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of funding and even ceding territory to extremists in order to fuel fears of militant groups, Kerry said "nobody is going to be fooled."

"They can bluster, they can protest, they can put out distortions, the bottom line is we are going to Geneva to implement Geneva I, and if Assad doesn't do that he will invite greater response," he said.

Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have led moves to bring together the divided Syrian opposition and the Assad regime for the first time since the conflict erupted in March 2011.

More than 35 countries will gather in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva from Wednesday for talks on setting up a transitional government to lead the country, in line with a 2012 deal.

"I believe, as we begin to get to Geneva and begin to get into this process, that it will become clear that there is no political solution whatsoever if Assad is not discussing a transition and if he thinks he's going to be part of that future. It's not going to happen," Kerry said.

The international community was "not out of options" for increasing the pressure on Assad, Kerry warned as he met Friday with Mexico's Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade and their Canadian counterpart John Baird.

"I'm not particularly, you know, surprised that he is trying to divert this. He's been doing this for months, trying to make himself the protector of Syria against extremists," Kerry said of Assad.

Kerry slammed alleged comments from the Syrian regime that the Geneva II peace talks were to discuss ways to combat the rise of terrorist groups plaguing the country as "revisionism."

And he accused the Syrian leader of even "funding some of those extremists, even purposefully ceding some territory to them in order to make them more of a problem so he can make the argument that he is somehow the protector against them."

"Nobody's going to be fooled. We're not going to be fooled by this process."





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