The US top diplomat has defended a controversial trade pact with Europe during a speech at the world's largest security conference in Munich. He has also accused Russia of holding up Syria peace talks.
Speaking atthe Munich Security Conference (MSC)
on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry marked the final stretch of his time in office with a speech that ran the gamut from international trade to Europe's refugee crisis to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Opening his speech to the annual meeting, the world's largest on security, on a severe note, Kerry remarked that "never in history have we experienced that many crises" at the same time.
"We are facing the gravest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II," said the US' top diplomat, referring to the influx of refugees that saw more than 1.1 million migrants arrive Germany alone in 2015.
"The United States understands the near existential nature of this threat to the politics and fabric of life in Europe," Kerry said, adding that the US would not forsake Europe with this burden, and to that end was pursuing a NATO mission to close the leaky border between Turkey and Greece, the scene of thousands of drowning deaths in the past year as refugees attempt to enter the EU.
He singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his praise of how the EU has handled the often overwhelming situation.
"Chancellor Merkel and other leaders have demonstrated great courage in helping so many who need so much," Kerry said.
Kerry: TTIP will not undermine EU
In another bid to calm European fears about US intentions, Kerry mentioned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, which has led to widespread protests across the continent amidst fears it will drastically increase the ability of US businesses to spread their influence and interfere in Europe.
"Nothing in the TTIP requires Europe to reduce or undo regulations or weaken existing standards," the secretary of state insisted.
The topic swiftly changed to the conflict in Syria, the main theme of this year's MSC. Kerry took direct aim at Russia's supporting President Bashar al-Assad with airstrikes, saying "the vast majority, in our opinion, of Russia's attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups."
Russia's involvement, Kerry suggested, was at the heart of why the conflict seemed never-ending. Alluding to therecent breakdown of UN-brokered peace talks
in Geneva, Kerry said "if people who want to be part of the conversation are being bombed, we're not going to have much of a process."
The secretary of state promised that sanctions against Russia would not be removed until the now one-year-old Minsk accord is fully implemented in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow: Everyone is violating humanitarian law
Speaking directly after Kerry in a debate with his German and British counterparts, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted that all parties were guilty in the failure to end the Syrian civil war.
"Everyone on the ground is doing something which is wrong from the point of view of humanitarian law," said Lavrov.
The foreign minister accused Western powers of only seeing one side of the conflict. "My point is you should not demonize Assad. You shouldn't demonize anyone except terrorism in Syria."
Lavrov said that the only way to end the war, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions, was for Washington and Moscow to work out a military solution together. When pushed by the moderator to gauge the likelihood of the Geneva peace plan working, Lavrov said "49" out of 100.