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Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated his call on Thursday for Russia and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to stop attacking rebels in Aleppo, even after Syria has consistently ignored those plans and was on the verge of kicking out the rebels.

“The only remaining question is whether the Syrian regime with Russia’s support is willing to go to Geneva prepared to negotiate constructively and whether or not they’re willing to stop this slaughter of their own people,” Kerry said at the State Department.

“I call on the entire international community to join in exerting pressure on all parties to go forward with the process that has been laid out for some period of time now, to abide by the cessation of hostilities, and to bring the killing and the cruelty,” he said.

Kerry has been trying to negotiate a ceasefire deal for years, but the attempts failed, most dramatically with the bombing of a United Nations aid convoy in September. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Assad defended their actions as a necessary conflict to prevent terrorists from overthrowing the government.

Republicans argued that Russia and Assad were using the hope of peace talks to manipulate Kerry in light of the Obama administration’s unwillingness to intervene militarily.

On Thursday, even Kerry acknowledged that Russia and Assad negotiated with him in bad faith during previous ceasefire talks.

“The process has not succeeded, mostly in my judgement because of the continued constant unwillingness of the Assad regime to live by those agreements,” he said. “It will take negotiations, and they haven’t taken place in all these years, any real negotiations.”

Russia has carried out a brutal bombardment of Aleppo on behalf of Assad, protecting his regime from overthrow and demonstrating the capabilities of the modern Russian military in the process.

“Our immediate goal is to end the tragedy of Aleppo, to help people resume their peaceful lives and start rebuilding this ancient and Syria’s largest city,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. “I hope the terrorists will stop their resistance in two or three days. The minority who refuse to do so will have to face the circumstances.”

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Russia refused calls to implement a ceasefire over the weekend, as the Assad regime closed in on the final pockets of resistance in Aleppo. “They informed us that a ceasefire could not start for several days, meaning that this assault would just continue,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Monday.

Lavrov justified the assault as defense against the threat of ISIS. “The terrorists were on the verge of seizing the country’s capital 18 months ago,” he said. “Only the intervention of the Russian Aerospace Forces helped prevent the tragedy – and this only with great difficulty – and push the terrorists back. I hope the situation in eastern Aleppo will settle in two or three days.”

The reconquest of Aleppo has placed Assad in a strong position to choke the rebellion against his regime, by particularly undermining the U.S.-backed opposition. Of Assad’s in-country enemies, only ISIS controls a geographically-coherent area.

“No one believes that once [Assad] regains Aleppo, that the moderate forces have a real chance of overthrowing Bashar Assad,” Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain told the Washington Examiner last week.

There remain pockets of resistance in Aleppo, after an initial ceasefire brokered between Russia and Turkey broke down. Lacking any way of directly stopping Russia and Assad from proceeding with the attack on rebel neighborhoods, Kerry — who was cut out of the talks between Turkey and Russia, although he added they were “using the same template that we had created” — tried to create a moral imperative for an end to the violence.

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“There remains tens of thousands of lives that are now concentrated into a very small area of Aleppo, and the last thing anybody wants to see – and the world will be watching – is that that small area turns into another Srebrenica,” he said. “It is imperative that key actors step up and do their part, and I call on the entire international community to join in exerting pressure on all parties to go forward with the process that has been laid out for some period of time now, to abide by the cessation of hostilities.”

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