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Merkel says some actions in Syria ‘very close to war crimes’

As Kerry, Lavrov meet to resume truce talks, German leader say most important thing is ending bloodshed

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the German Bundestag June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the German Bundestag June 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that some actions in Syria come “very close to war crimes.”

Merkel said that the bombing of hospitals and underground facilities in Aleppo is “inhuman.” She said: “I think we are very close to war crimes. Whether there are war crimes, the International Court of Justice decides.”

The chancellor made her comments to a conference of her conservative bloc’s youth wing in the western German city of Paderborn.

Merkel said: “The much more important thing would be, how we can stop it all and move on to a political process?”

She noted that talks between the US and Russia are resuming, “but all these talks unfortunately haven’t in the recent past led to a permanent cease-fire.”

Back where they started, the United States, Russia and other international players in Syria’s civil war searched Saturday for a diplomatic process that could succeed where last month’s collapsed cease-fire failed. With the Syrian and Russian governments pressing an offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo, no one was predicting a quick breakthrough.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is heading the new effort, joined by a familiar cast that includes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the top diplomats of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (top-C) arrives on October 15, 2016 in Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with his Russian counterpart in a bid to ease the bloodshed in Syria. (AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (top-C) arrives on October 15, 2016 in Lausanne, Switzerland to meet with his Russian counterpart in a bid to ease the bloodshed in Syria. (AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI)

Days of deadly airstrikes in Aleppo prompted Kerry last month to end bilateral US-Russian engagement on Syria, including discussions over a proposed military alliance against Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria. And last week he accused Russia of war crimes for targeting hospitals and civilian infrastructure in the Arab country.

Nevertheless, Kerry was reuniting with Lavrov at the lakeside Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne, even scheduling a one-on-one meeting with him before the larger gathering. US hopes of any diplomatic progress appeared to rest squarely on Russia’s cooperation.

The conflict has killed as many as a half-million people since 2011, contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II, and allowed the Islamic State to carve out territory for itself and emerge as a global threat.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

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