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Assad undermining peace talks: U.S.

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Bashar al-Assad.— PHOTO: AP
Bashar al-Assad.— PHOTO: AP

The United States on Wednesday accused the Syrian government of undermining the Geneva peace talks by rounding up and arresting the relatives of opposition delegates.

A second round of U.N.-led peace talks, dubbed Geneva II, broke down in acrimony earlier this month, threatening international attempts to mediate an end to Syria’s vicious civil war.

International envoys are trying to get the process back on track, but Washington accused Bashar al-Assad’s regime of using strong-arm tactics to intimidate opposition negotiators.

“We call on the regime to immediately and unconditionally release all those unfairly arrested,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, expressing Washington’s “outrage.”

“The opposition delegation must be permitted to safely and securely work towards the political transition,” she said.

The impetus behind the Geneva dialogue came from a joint U.S.-Russian diplomatic initiative, but the rival powers remain themselves deeply divided over the crisis in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Rome next week for their first face-to-face meeting since the last round of talks failed. — AFP

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