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State Dept Has Trouble Explaining Point of Kerry’s Threat to Russia on Syria

• September 28, 2016 5:08 pm

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State Department spokesman John Kirby had trouble during Wednesday’s press briefing explaining the apparent threat made by Secretary of State John Kerry to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the raised hostilities in Syria.

Kerry reportedly called Lavrov and warned the U.S. would suspend bilateral engagement in Syria unless Russia stops bombing civilians in the city of Aleppo.

Reuters correspondent Arshad Mohammed called out Kirby on Kerry’s comments, saying the secretary appeared to give an ultimatum to Moscow but does not know how to back it up.

"What makes you think that the secretary’s threat to begin to take steps to suspend cooperation if the Russians don’t act to stop the violence immediately is likely to get the Russians to actually stop the violence?" Mohammed asked.

"I think that’s a question you have to ask Foreign Minister Lavrov," Kirby said.

"You made the offer, I’m asking you," Mohammed said. "Why do you think that offer will work?"

"I know you’re asking me, but I can’t speak for the Russians," Kirby said before mentioning that he believes that Moscow wants better military cooperation with the United States.

"Putting this to the Russians would also be a viable exercise," Kirby said.

"But you’re making an offer even though you’ve seen nothing to suggest that they’re going to take it, and I don’t understand why you’re still leaving this one last chance, if it is a last chance, and you don’t give them another opportunity next week or next month to do this," Mohammed said before listing off a litany of recent Russian hostile actions inside Syria.

"I don’t understand why you believe, you believe there is any reason why the Russians would seize on what you say is their desire for military cooperation with the United States or intelligence sharing when they have in your own words, shown no reason to make you believe that. So, why are you doing this. Why don’t you say it’s over?" Mohammed asked.

"I didn’t say that we believe that this would change their calculus," Kirby said. "I don’t know whether it will or won’t, and neither does the secretary."

"Unless we see something extraordinary, something significant very, very soon, we are going to have to take those steps to suspend our bilateral engagement on Syria, and that’s not an insignificant move for us," Kirby said.