Obama turns up pressure on Putin over Syria
AFP photoU.S. President Barack Obama warned Russia faces fierce international rebuke if it continues to make common cause with Syria’s brutal regime, signaling a renewed push to end the bloody five-year civil war Aug. 4.
Obama said Russia risked casting itself as an “irresponsible actor” on the world stage, after meeting with top aides at the Pentagon.
Eying a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo - the besieged northwestern city of 250,000 people that was once Syria’s commercial hub - Obama said it was “time for Russia to show that it is serious” about bringing peace.
For five years Russian President Vladimir Putin has steadfastly supported the regime of Bashar al-Assad, offering international cover, military aid and in the last year carrying out its own strikes in anti-Assad areas.
Putin has shown little sign of ending that support through multiple rounds of international talks.
“I’m not confident that we can trust the Russians or Vladimir Putin,” Obama said. “Which is why we have to test whether or not we can get an actual cessation of hostilities.”
The United States hopes renewing a failed cease-fire would prevent a bloodbath in Aleppo, allow humanitarian aid missions to resume and open the door for negotiations that would end the civil war and turn the focus to defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Meanwhile, the prospects for the sides in the Syrian conflict to reach a diplomatic solution are currently bleak, Turkey’s presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Aug. 4.
“At the current stage, we could not reach a point where one could say that there is hope for a political solution in Syria,” Kalın said in an interview with Russian news agency Tass. “We want to ensure political transition in Syria in cooperation with Russia as soon as possible.”
He said Turkey’s main goal is to permanently end the crisis in Syria, in part because Turkey has “felt all negative effects of Syrian conflict directly.” Some of those effects are seen in the massive influx of Syrian refugees – 2.7 million – to whom Turkey has opened its borders.
At least 10 people, including seven children, were killed in air strikes on the rebel-held east of Aleppo on Aug. 5, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
The Britain-based group said it was unclear if the raids on Aleppo’s Marjeh district were carried out by aircraft belonging to the Syrian government or its ally Russia.