John Kerry: ‘There isn’t a specific NATO role’ in Syria

"We all need to redouble our efforts in order to try to bring people to the table"

From John Kerry, Department of State:  I met just the other day in Istanbul with the Friends of Syria Core Group, and we continued the discussion about Syria here today because there’s a lot of concern. While there isn’t a specific NATO role, nor did anybody suggest a very specific role, obviously all of the countries here have ways of being supportive of the humanitarian crisis or other choices that they may or may not choose to make. What we did was underscore that the mass murder that is taking place outside of Damascus is unacceptable. We committed – all of us – to the notion that we must continue to work together in Europe, elsewhere, to root out extremism. And I think there was a strong feeling within the room that Assad needs to leave in order to be able to permit Syria to be able to move forward with its future. . . .

Needless to say, this is a critical priority for the stability of that region not just on diplomatic grounds and not just for security reasons, but because Syria borders NATO territory and also because as a humanitarian matter what is happening there is reaching catastrophic proportions. So on behalf of NATO, we were pleased and everybody commented on the fact that it was appropriate to deploy to Turkey, along with Germany and Netherlands, the Patriot batteries that help Turkey with the defense of its population under these circumstances. . . .

WASHINGTON POST QUESTION: [C]ould you clarify the remarks you made to NATO foreign ministers this morning when you asked for additional planning beyond what NATO has already done on a possible Syrian threat, including chemical weapons? What more do you want them to do?

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me begin with the last first. I didn’t ask for additional planning. I think it might have been Secretary General or somebody who commented that we may need to do some additional planning. But there’s no specific request. What there was from me was a very clear statement about the threat of chemical weapons and the potential for chemical weapons generically to fall into bad hands. And what I did suggest to everybody was we therefore need to all be thinking about how we can get to the negotiating table to avoid an implosion of Syria which would be the worst consequence.

So it’s sort of an extrapolation to suggest that I’m suggesting planning. But what I am suggesting is we all need to redouble our efforts in order to try to bring people to the table, and that was precisely the conversation that I was having with Foreign Minister Lavrov

Excerpts from press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, April 23, 2013.  (photo: NATO)

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