U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks out at the Swiss Alps during a helicopter ride from Davos to Zurich January 25, 2014.  .
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looks out at the Swiss Alps during a helicopter ride from Davos to Zurich January 25, 2014. .
News   /   Syrian Crisis

The U.S State Department has denied a claim by Syrian foreign minister Saturday that Washington sought direct negotiations with them at peace talks in Switzerland.

"The Americans asked us to negotiate directly with them in Montreux," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told Syrian state media on the plane home from 10 days of peace talks in the Swiss cities of Montreux and Geneva.

"But we refused to do so before Secretary of State John Kerry apologised for what he said at the conference," al-Muallem added, in remarks carried by state news agency SANA.

State Department spokeswoman "Jen Psaki" denied there was any attempt at direct negotiations.

The United States offered to connect with the Syrians "on a staff level" through Joint Special Representative "Lakhdar Brahim"i and the United Nations "because we are focused on ending the suffering of the Syrian people, and as we have throughout the conflict", Psaki said in a statement to AFP.

Syria's government and opposition began the so-called Geneva-2  talks on January 22, with the participation of dozens of nations, including Russia, which backs the regime, and the United States, which supports the opposition.

In his opening remarks at the conference, Kerry said Syria's President Bashar al-Assad "will not be part" of any transitional government.

"There is no way, not possible in the imagination, that the man who has led the brutal response to his own people could regain legitimacy to govern", Kerry said.

During 10 days of talks the Syrian government and opposition delegations made no progress on ceasefires, humanitarian corridors or the question of a transitional government.

A second round of talks has been tabled for February 10, with the opposition already committed to attending.

Al-Muallem said his team would await guidance from Damascus before announcing whether it would participate.

 

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