McCain: Kerry's Syria peace talks a 'cop out'

Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerrySchumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence Trump threatens Iran with increased sanctions after country exceeds uranium enrichment cap The 'invisible primary' has begun MORE's last-ditch attempt at a negotiated end to the Syrian civil war is a “cop out” aimed at delaying stronger U.S. action, Senate hawk John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain argues with Andrew Yang about free marriage counseling proposal Veterans groups hand out USS John McCain shirts on National Mall during Trump speech Trump is still on track to win reelection MORE (R-Ariz.) said Tuesday, shortly before casting his first vote on legislation to arm vetted rebel groups. 

ADVERTISEMENT

McCain made the remarks as Kerry arrived in Oman on Tuesday for two days of talks about how to set up peace talks next month between Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and the rebels. 

McCain said the talks, to take place under the auspices of the United Nations in Geneva, all but assure that the Obama administration won't take stronger action for at least another month when more than 70,000 people have already died over the past 26 months.

McCain said the administration's stated concern that weapons could end up in the hands of Islamist militants was “baloney.”

“It's another cop out,” McCain told reporters. “And so is this, quote, conference a cop-out, because we're not going to do anything until we have the conference. Meanwhile, people are being slaughtered.”

McCain is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is scheduled to vote Tuesday afternoon on bipartisan legislation to arm vetted rebel groups. He is expected to vote for the bill from committee Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate passes .5B border bill, setting up fight with House Senate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week MORE (D-N.J.) and ranking member Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' MORE (R-Tenn.).

McCain said figuring out who to give weapons to was “easy enough.”

“I know who the good guys are,” he said. “There's plenty of people that we could work with and set up a legitimate government.”

McCain was more amenable to the peace talks, pushed by the United States and Russia, when The Hill asked him about them a week ago. 

“It's fine with me to have a meeting or gathering or conference or whatever it is,” McCain said at the time. “But the only way that the Russians are going to be cooperative on this effort is if they believe that Assad is losing.”

Since then, however, the situation on the ground has reportedly evolved to the regime's favor. 

Assad's forces are in the process of taking over the disputed city of Qusayr near the western border with Lebanon, The Wall Street Journal reports, which would divide rebel forces and create a continuous area of government-controlled territory in western Syria.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com.

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill