US: Kerry urges participation in Geneva talks
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called on parties to the Geneva talks to give up their preconditions and warned the Bashar al-Assad regime to stop starving people in besieged cities.

"This morning in light of what is at stake in these talks, I appeal to both sides to make the most of this moment, to seize the opportunity for serious negotiations, to negotiate in good faith with the goal of making concrete measurable progress in the days immediately ahead," Kerry said in a State Department webcast on Sunday.

The talks to end Syrian civil war started on Friday in Geneva but the main opposition bloc’s Higher Negotiations Committee said it would participate only if Assad forces and Russia lift sieges on opposition held areas, including Madaya town.

Kerry voiced the concerns of the opposition, noting: "‘Surrender or starve’ tactics are directly contrary to the law of war.”

"We must not forget what the Syrian people will always remember: Assad and his allies have, from the very beginning, been by far the primary source of killing, torture and deprivation in this war," Kerry added.

He said that the town of Madaya is just an hour’s drive from Damascus and yet "its people have been reduced to eating grass and leaves”.

"How have the regime and the militias that support it responded? By planting landmines and erecting barbed wire to keep relief workers out.”

Kerry also said that he had received reports that 16 more people had starved to death Madaya over the weekend.

Last Modified: 2016-02-01 11:07:03
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