U.S. denies it sought direct negotiations with Syria in Geneva

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT Sat Feb 1, 2014 11:10pm EST

1 of 8. A man runs with a stretcher at a site hit by what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by government forces in the Al-Ansari neighborhood of Aleppo January 31, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

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WASHINGTON/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Washington denied claims by Syria's foreign minister on Saturday that American diplomats had sought to negotiate directly with their Syrian counterparts at last week's 'Geneva 2' peace conference in Switzerland.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States had offered to connect with Syrian officials "on a staff level" through the United Nations and Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi.

"At no point did the United States offer to negotiate directly with the Syrian regime," she said, adding that the United States had made similar offers throughout the conflict.

Psaki was responding to a query from Reuters after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said the Americans had requested direct negotiations in Montreux, the Swiss city where talks began on January 22 before moving to Geneva.

"We refused to do so before Secretary of State John Kerry apologizes for what he said at the conference," Moualem told reporters aboard the Syrian government delegation's flight back to Damascus.

In the comments published by Syria's national news agency SANA, Moualem did not specify what Kerry had said that required an apology.

But Psaki said such a gesture would not happen.

"At no point will Secretary Kerry ever apologize for speaking the truth about the brutality the Assad regime has inflicted on the people of Syria," she said.

A contentious week-long first round of talks began with uncompromising speeches, by Kerry and Moualem among others, and repeatedly seemed on the verge of collapse before the two sides even entered the same room.

The conference adjourned on Friday with no progress towards ending the civil war and the government unable to say whether it will return for the next round of negotiations beginning on February 10.

(Reporting By Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Stephen Kalin in Beirut; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Comments (3)
umkomazi wrote:
Looks like the US has been caught out again….

Feb 02, 2014 2:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
Tiu wrote:
He may as well negotiate directly with the US. The so-called Syrian opposition look like a very dubious bunch who have little support inside Syria.

Feb 02, 2014 6:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
Lovetwo wrote:
Why would the US opposition have ANY support inside Syria? Syria is not their Country.

Syrian People stand together to outs this evil from within your country. Defend your Mother Country together. Support your legitimate government of President Assad. Love one another.

I tell you The Truth.

Long Devil disband and go home, you have no power or jurisdiction.

Power and Glory be to God in the highest, for ever and ever. Amen.

Peace be with you All.

Love
Omega

Feb 02, 2014 9:19am EST  --  Report as abuse
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