- Title: Kerry urges Russia to show "grace" in Geneva Aleppo talks
- Date: 10th December 2016
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (DECEMBER 10, 2016) (AGENCY POOL) KERRY, AYRAULT AND STEINMEIER ON STAGE
- Embargoed: 25th December 2016 13:58
- Keywords: Syria Kerry Ayrault Steinmeier Thani Assad Aleppo Geneva Russia
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- City: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA00A5CAV77R
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: THE TRANSLATIONS FROM GERMAN AND ARABIC PROVIDED IN SHOTS 15 AND 18 ARE THOSE PROVIDED BY THE OFFICIAL INTERPRETER
Backers of the Syrian opposition appeared resigned to the fall of eastern Aleppo on Saturday (December 10), with the United States pleading Moscow to show "grace" when officials meet in Geneva to try to reach a deal for civilians and fighters to leave the city.
Syrian government and allied forces have in the last two weeks driven rebels from most of their territory in what was once Syria's most populous city. The rebels have controlled the eastern section since 2012, and President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview published on Thursday that retaking Aleppo would change the course of the civil war across the whole country.
Critics of the operation have warned that thousands of civilians risk being caught in the crossfire and have repeatedly called on Syrian government forces and its backers to accept a ceasefire to at least allow corridors for civilians and rebel fighters to leave to safer areas.
Speaking in Paris after a meeting of countries that oppose Assad, including France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, an exasperated Kerry showed little optimism for U.S. and Russian talks in Geneva later on Saturday.
"Our teams along with representatives from the United Nations and other international organisations are meeting in Geneva today and they will meet very shortly in order to try to flesh out the details of a possible, I emphasise, possible, way of trying to save lives," he told a news conference.
"We believe that rather than embolden the opposition, rather than encouraging its backers to keep fighting, attract more extremists, create another wave of refugees fleeing the country, Russia and Assad have a moment here where they are obviously in a dominant position, they have an ability to show a little grace. And sometimes in diplomacy, a little grace goes a long way," he added.
Moscow and Washington have discussed a ceasefire to let civilians escape eastern Aleppo and aid enter. Russia also wants the United States to urge rebel fighters to abandon their territory and accept transport out.
Speaking after the meeting, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that the campaign currently being waged in east Aleppo had less to do with combating terrorism than wiping out the opposition.
"The battle for Aleppo, "Ayrault said, is "not so much aiming to end terrorism but to try to eradicate all political opposition, and they aim above all to use violence to shore up a dictator who is scorned, the goal is to liquidate the opposition, much more than to fight, as we are, al-Nusra".
Ayrault's office later said that he misspoke when referring to the "battle for Aleppo and its processions of Europe", meaning to say: "its processions of horrors."
As government and Russian warplanes pounded the remaining rebel-held districts of Aleppo on Saturday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he had not abandoned the city.
"We haven't abandoned Aleppo and we haven't given up and we're going to do whatever we can to find solutions and so we will use whichever means we have at our disposal like truces and humanitarian aid to find a solution and to reach a political solution," he said.
The meeting in Paris, also attended by Riad Hijab, the coordinator of Saudi-backed opposition group the High Negotiations Committee, underscored the powerlessness of Syrian opposition supporters, as well as some divisions between them.
Beyond the issue of humanitarian access, Ayrault said Moscow and Damascus needed to realise that the fall of Aleppo would not end the war and that negotiations based on U.N. Security Council resolutions agreed in December 2015 should be revived to find a political solution.
More than five years of war in Syria have killed more than 300,000 people and made more than half of Syrians homeless.
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