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Kerry Follows Through on 'No More Talks' Threat Over Russian Aggression in Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry takes his turn as he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov address reporters on Sept. 12, 2013. (State Department photo)

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry decided to suspend talks with Russia over Syria — a threat that was roundly mocked by two senators last week as “finally, a real power move in American diplomacy.”

State Department press secretary John Kirby said in a statement today that the United States “is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities.”

“This is not a decision that was taken lightly. The United States spared no effort in negotiating and attempting to implement an arrangement with Russia aimed at reducing violence, providing unhindered humanitarian access, and degrading terrorist organizations operating in Syria, including Daesh and al-Qaeda in Syria,” Kirby said.

“Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments – including its obligations under international humanitarian law and UNSCR 2254 – and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.”

Kirby added that “rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the Cessation of Hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need, including through the September 19 attack on a humanitarian aid convoy.”

“The U.S. will also withdraw personnel that had been dispatched in anticipation of the possible establishment of the Joint Implementation Center,” he said. “To ensure the safety of our respective military personnel and enable the fight against Daesh, the United States will continue to utilize the channel of communications established with Russia to de-conflict counterterrorism operations in Syria.”

Last week, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued a joint statement noting that “John ‘Not Delusional’ Kerry has made the one threat the Russians feared most – the suspension of U.S.-Russia bilateral talks about Syria.”

“No more lakeside tête-à-têtes at five-star hotels in Geneva. No more joint press conferences in Moscow. We can only imagine that having heard the news, Vladimir Putin has called off his bear hunt and is rushing back to the Kremlin to call off Russian airstrikes on hospitals, schools, and humanitarian aid convoys around Aleppo. After all, butchering the Syrian people to save the Assad regime is an important Russian goal. But not if it comes at the unthinkable price of dialogue with Secretary Kerry.”

Kerry defended his actions at the Washington Ideas Forum, stating he makes “no apology, nor does President Obama, none whatsoever, for trying to reach out and find out if there is a way to achieve the political settlement that everybody says is the only way to solve the problem of Syria.”

Kerry added he’s “not worried about lampooning, particularly from people who don’t seem to have the votes or the ability to be able to cobble together a legitimate plan or a legitimate approach.”