Russia has made ‘quite specific’ proposal on Syria ceasefire: Lavrov
REUTERS PhotoRussia has made a “quite specific” proposal for a ceasefire in Syria and is awaiting a U.S. response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Feb. 11, before sitting down for talks with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry.
“We made propositions for a ceasefire that are quite specific,” AFP quoted Lavrov as saying in Munich, where Kerry and Lavrov were scheduled to host foreign ministers from the 17-nation Syria contact group later in the day, for a meeting billed as a moment of truth for the floundering peace process.
“We will wait for the American response before we take it to the [International Syria Support Group].”
U.S. officials, talking to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Russia has proposed a March 1 ceasefire in Syria, but Washington believes Moscow is giving itself and the Syrian government three weeks to try to crush moderate rebel groups.
The United States has countered with demands for the fighting to stop immediately, the officials said on Feb. 10.
One of the U.S officials said the U.S. cannot accept Russia’s offer because opposition forces could suffer irreversible losses in northern and southern Syria before the ceasefire ever takes hold.
The officials said the U.S. counterproposal is simple: A ceasefire that is effective immediately and is accompanied by full humanitarian access to Syria’s besieged civilian centers.
Earlier in the day, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov said Moscow was “ready to discuss the modalities of a ceasefire” and that peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition rebels could “possibly start earlier” than the proposed date of Feb. 25, AFP reported.
The first round of talks in Geneva collapsed earlier this month over the bombardment of Aleppo, where observers say at least 500 people have been killed since the Russian-backed regime offensive began on Feb. 1.
The U.N. says 51,000 Syrians have fled the bombardment of the city of Aleppo.
“We’re going to have a serious conversation about all aspects about what’s happening in Syria. Obviously, at some point in time, we want to make progress on the issues of humanitarian access and ceasefire,” Kerry said.
The Russian defense ministry said on Feb. 11 that its planes carried out 510 military sorties in Syria during the period Feb. 4-11 and they had hit about 1,900 targets in Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, Deir ez-Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hasakah and Raqqah.
Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters backed by Russian bombing raids have driven Syrian rebels from a former military air base near the border with Turkey, a group that monitors the war said on Feb. 11.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the war through a network of sources on the ground, reported heavy fighting between Kurds and Syrian rebels around Menagh air base, a former Syrian air force facility that had fallen into rebel hands.
Russian warplanes staged at least 30 raids against rebels at the base before the Kurdish fighters were able to seize it.
One rebel commander, Zekeriya Karsli from the Levant Front, told Reuters: “The fall of Menagh airport has made the situation on the ground pretty grim.”