Assad blamed for 'lack of real progress' in talks

The United States and 10 other nations on Friday bemoaned a “lack of real progress” in Syrian peace talks championed by Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart.

The so-called “London 11” group pinned the blame for the failure of the week-long talks squarely on Bashar Assad's regime. United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi sought to preserve a chance for peace by saying that “common ground” had been identified and scheduling more talks for Feb. 10, but Assad has so far declined to commit.

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“The regime is responsible for the lack of real progress in the first round of negotiations,” the group said in a statement. “It must not further obstruct substantial negotiations and it must engage constructively in the second round of negotiations. We ask all those who have influence on it to engage to create the conditions for the process to succeed.”

The group comprises European and Middle Eastern nations opposed to Assad, a list not including Russia.

The communique went on to slam the regime's alleged “starve or surrender” strategy of blocking food and aid to rebel-held areas, as well as the use of heavy artillery and ballistic missiles against the rebels. It also denounced the influx of Islamist extremists who have joined the fight against Assad.

“We condemn the presence of foreign fighters in Syria, both those fighting with the regime such as Hezbollah and other Iranian backed forces, and those fighting within other extremist groups,” the statement says. “We call on the international community to do their part to ensure that the extremists don’t deny the Syrian people the opportunity to realize their democratic aspirations.”

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