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Syrian cease-fire in weeks, Kerry says

PARIS (AVRUPA TIMES) A Syrian cease-fire could be in place within weeks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.


Speaking in an interview with U.S. news channel CNN, Kerry said a growing coalition including Russia and Iran “gives us an opportunity to perhaps get a ceasefire in place within the next three, four, five weeks.”


Kerry was speaking following weekend talks in Vienna to resolve the four-and-a-half year conflict in Syria and after Syria-linked militants killed 129 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris on Friday.


He also announced that the U.S. and Turkey would soon launch a joint operation to close the Turkish border with Syria.


“The entire border of northern Syria - 75 percent of it - has now been shut off and we are entering an operation with the Turks to shut off the other remaining 98 kilometers [61 miles],” he said. “I believe the pressure is mounting on Daesh.”


Foreign recruits have used the border to join the extremist group in Syria, despite the efforts of Turkish security forces.


Negotiations in Vienna saw ministers from nearly 20 nations agree to establish an UN-backed cease-fire and begin peace talks by Jan. 1. On Monday, the U.K. announced it would draw up an UN cease-fire resolution.


In a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, Kerry said the principles for a political solution agreed in Vienna were a “gigantic step”.


He added: “If we can get that done, that opens up the aperture for a whole bunch of things. We’re weeks away, conceivably, from the possibility of a big transition for Syria and I don’t think enough people necessarily notice that. But that’s the reality.


“We are not talking about months, we are talking about weeks hopefully.”


CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Kerry if, following attacks in Egypt, Lebanon and France that killed 352, the threat from Daesh and its affiliates was the “new normal”.


He replied: “This is not normal. It will not be normal. It will not become normal. This is an aberration.


“But it is a reflection of what foreign fighters have been able to do, going to Syria and then coming back and being able to spread their violent ideology to other people or even through social media.”


However, the secretary of state said Daesh-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq had been reduced by a quarter.


Kerry would not say whether the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition in Syria and Iraq had previously targeted the Belgian-born militant thought to have masterminded the Paris attacks - Abdelhamid Abaaoud.


Neither would he confirm the death of Mohammed Emwazi who was reported killed in a drone strike in Syria last week. Emwazi gained notoriety as Jihadi John, the executioner of Western hostages held by Daesh.


“He has been targeted... but I can’t confirm yet the consequences,” Kerry said.


The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 250,000 lives, according to the UN, and made the country the world’s largest source of refugees and displaced people.

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