The United States State Department has denied a claim by Syrian foreign minister that Washington had sought direct negotiations with them at peace conference in Switzerland.
"The Americans asked us to negotiate directly with them in Montreux", Syrian Foreign Minister "Walid al-Moallem" 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 apologized for what he said at the conference", al-Moallem added, in remarks carried by Syrian news agency SANA Saturday.
State Department spokeswoman "Jen Psaki" denied there was any attempt at direct negotiations.
Psaki said in a statement to AFP that the united States offered to connect with the Syrians “on a staff level” through Joint Special Representative "Lakhdar Brahimi" and the United Nations "because we are focused on ending the suffering of the Syrian people, and as we have throughout the conflict".
Psaki noted "In no point did the United States offer to negotiate directly with the Syrian regime and at no point will Secretary Kerry ever apologize for speaking the truth about the Assad regime has inflicted on the people of Syria".
Syrian government and opposition began the so-called Geneva-2 talks on Jan. 22, with the participation of dozens of nations, including Russia, which backs the government , 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.
During 10 days of talks the government and opposition made no progress on cease-fires, humanitarian corridors or the question of a transitional government.
The Syrian government delegation sought to focus the discussions on terrorism".
A second round of talks has been tabled for Feb. 10, with the opposition already committed to attending. Al-Moallem said that his team would await guidance from Damascus before announcing whether it would participate.