- POSTED: 05 Jun 2014 02:23
- UPDATED: 05 Jun 2014 02:28
US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Syria's election as a "great big zero" on Wednesday, urging President Bashar al-Assad's allies Iran, Russia and Hezbollah to end the country's three-year war.
BEIRUT: US Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Syria's election as a "great big zero" on Wednesday, urging President Bashar al-Assad's allies Iran, Russia and Hezbollah to end the country's three-year war.
His remarks during a surprise trip to Beirut came ahead of the publication of official results from the election, dubbed a "disgrace" by Washington.
Kerry also announced US$290 million in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighbouring countries hosting refugees, key among them Lebanon.
Assad is expected to win in a poll that was not even held in the roughly 60 percent of the country out of government control.
"With respect to the elections that took place, the so-called elections, the elections are non-elections," Kerry told journalists in the Lebanese capital.
"The elections are a great big zero. They're meaningless, and they're meaningless because you can't have an election where millions of your people don't even have an ability to vote, where they don't have an ability to contest the election, and they have no choice."
He said that "nothing has changed" as a result of the poll, adding: "The conflict is the same, the terror is the same, the killing is the same."
Syrian state media has trumpeted a high turnout, with pro-government newspaper Al-Watan saying "millions" had cast ballots and estimating 70 per cent participation in some provinces, a figure dismissed by activists who charged that people voted out of fear rather than conviction.
Nationwide violence, however, killed 209 people on polling day, including 71 civilians, a monitoring group said.
Despite the criticism from Kerry and other senior American officials, Syrian opposition activists have slammed Washington for failing to take more decisive action on the years-long conflict.
Former US ambassador to Syria Robert Ford joined in the criticism, telling CNN he had retired last month after almost three years working with the opposition because he could no longer defend US policy.
Kerry urged key backers of the Syrian president to end the war.
"I particularly call on those nations directly supporting the Assad regime ... I call on them -- Iran, Russia, and I call on Hezbollah, based right here in Lebanon -- to engage in the legitimate effort to bring this war to an end."
The trio have been repeatedly criticised by Western countries for backing Assad, with Moscow in particular coming under fire for vetoing draft resolutions in the UN Security Council four times in defence of its ally Damascus.
Russia earlier called for the speedy appointment of a new UN envoy after Lakhdar Brahimi, who brokered two rounds of abortive peace talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition, stepped down over the weekend saying his mediation had reached a stalemate.
Brahimi had infuriated Damascus by criticising Tuesday's election as an obstacle to his peace efforts.
Kerry meanwhile pledged to boost humanitarian aid to people affected by the Syrian war.
"Today, I am pleased to announce on behalf of the American people and on behalf of President Obama another US$290 million in humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict, both inside Syria and the communities throughout the region where they have taken refuge," he said.
"With the newest contribution that I've announced today, the United States has now committed more than US$2 billion to support refugees and the nations that have opened their doors to them," he added.
"A large portion of the assistance that I just announced today, US$51 million, will go directly to refugees in Lebanon and the communities that I just mentioned that host them here," he said.
At more than one million, Lebanon hosts the highest number of Syria's nearly three million refugees.
"It's important for all of us to recognize the human catastrophe that is unfolding before our eyes, and that is why we in the United States have worked so hard to try to push for a political solution, which is the only real solution to this conflict," Kerry said.
A peaceful revolt demanding political change broke out in Syria in March 2011, but the crackdown by the Assad regime was so brutal that protesters later took up arms.
The war that ensued has killed more than 162,000 people and forced nearly half the population to flee their homes.