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Syria: Kerry, diplomats seek support for Aleppo’s opposition

Paris: US Secretary of State John Kerry and leading diplomats are trying to find solutions for Syria’s desperate opposition, as Syrian government forces squeeze rebels out of Aleppo after a devastating blitz.

With tens of thousands of civilians fleeing, Kerry said he is working to ensure their safety and to save Aleppo “from being absolutely, completely destroyed.”

Kerry and European and Arab diplomats are meeting members of Syria’s opposition in Paris on Saturday, hosted by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Meanwhile, US and Russian military experts and diplomats are meeting in Geneva today to work out details of the rebels’ exit from eastern Aleppo.

Prospects look increasingly grim for the Western-backed opposition forces after five years of civil war, as Syrian forces backed by Russia and other allies have taken control in recent days of nearly all of the rebel stronghold in eastern Aleppo.

Speaking in Paris yesterday night, Kerry acknowledged “people are tired of these meetings. … But what am I supposed to do? Go home and have a nice weekend in Massachusetts while people are dying?”

After days of intense bombing, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, acknowledged this week that diplomacy has “not delivered for the people of Aleppo.”

Speaking to The Associated Press in Paris, she blamed Russia for vetoing UN efforts to ensure humanitarian aid, and expressed frustration at past efforts to negotiate solutions with Russia.

“We have engaged in that exercise in good faith for many many months. But all that has happened in that period is that no food has arrived. No medical evacuations have occurred from eastern Aleppo. And the regime backed by Russia has pulverized schools, hospitals, civilian neighborhoods,” she said.

Russia says it is helping Assad target Islamic extremists who have staged attacks around the world.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said yesterday extremists had “subjugated” Syria’s opposition. “The phantom concept of the Syrian moderate opposition failed,” he said, according to the Tass news agency.

He accused the West of fomenting the war to overthrow Assad in a “present-day aggressive form of colonialism,” and called instead for a global anti-terrorist coalition.