Middle East/North Africa

Kerry faces backlash for praising Syria

 Secretary of State John Kerry is receiving criticism for praising Syria for its initial cooperation in abandoning its chemical weapons program. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Kerry’s remarks Monday

“How could we praise someone who has killed 110,000 people?” Erdoğan said Monday, according to Turkey’s Today’s Zaman. “It does not matter if these people were killed with chemical weapons or with other weapons: In the end, they were killed.”

Kerry told reporters at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Bali that Syrian President Bashar Assad deserved “credit” for “complying rapidly” with a U.N. resolution demanding that his regime turn over its chemical weapons to the international community. 

{mosads}Kerry called reports that chemical weapons were already being destroyed as of Sunday — just a week after passage of the U.N. Security Council resolution — “extremely significant.”

“I think it’s also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly, as they are supposed to,” Kerry said. “Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road, but it’s a good beginning, and we should welcome a good beginning.”

Turkey has long called for the U.S. to do more to support the rebels fighting Assad and is worried that progress on the chemical weapons front could eclipse the ongoing civil war.

The State Department scrambled to reaffirm its demand that Assad step down following Erdoğan’s comments.

“All of our positions on Bashar Assad have not changed,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. “Period. Full stop.”

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