US vows to continue Syria effort despite Russia break
AFP PhotoU.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Oct. 4 efforts to end Syria’s war must continue despite Washington’s decision to break off talks with Moscow over its “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised” support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The United States on Oct. 3 suspended talks with Russia on implementing a cease-fire deal in Syria, accusing Moscow of not living up to its commitments to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.
“We are not giving up on the Syrian people and we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace,” Kerry said in a speech in Brussels.
“We will continue to pursue a meaningful, sustainable, enforceable cessation of hostilities throughout the country - and that includes the grounding of Syrian and Russian combat aircraft in designated areas.”
Kerry charged that Russia had “turned a blind eye” to Assad’s “deplorable” use of chlorine gas and barrel bombs and suggested they were pursing a scorched earth policy in place of diplomacy.
Russian news agencies, citing Kerry’s Syria interlocutor, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow would continue to make efforts to resolve the Syria crisis despite the U.S. suspension of the talks.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it regretted the U.S. decision, saying Washington was trying to shift responsibility for the failure onto Moscow.
“We regret this decision by Washington to curtail the work of the specialist groups in Geneva, to withdraw their experts and to limit contacts only to the area of avoiding any conflicts,” Russian Foreing Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“Washington simply did not fulfil the key condition of the agreement to improve the humanitarian condition around Aleppo,” Zakharova said.
“After failing to fulfil the agreements that they themselves worked out, they are trying to shift responsibility on to someone else.”
A spokeswoman for U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he was in “intensive consultations” on the way forward.
The end of the talks could trigger deeper U.S. consideration of military options such as providing more sophisticated arms, logistical support, and training to rebel groups.
But the speed with which the cease-fire collapsed - after a U.N. aid convoy was bombed in Syria - appeared to surprise some U.S. officials, leaving them without a clear plan on the immediate way forward.
On Oct. 4, Syrian regime forces advanced against rebels during intense street battles in the heart of Aleppo.
Loyalist fighters seized several high-rise buildings from rebel groups in the city center, pushing north towards other opposition districts.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitor, said regime forces were “gradually advancing” after street battles on the front line dividing the rebel-held east from the government-controlled west.
“They are focusing on the tall buildings, which were once government administration buildings, because they can monitor entire streets and neighborhoods from there,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
A suicide bomber killed at least 22 people on Oct. 3 in an attack targeting a party in the northeastern Syrian province of Hasakeh, the Observatory and medics said.
“A suicide bomber blew himself up inside a hall in Tall Tawil village during the wedding of a member of the Syrian Democratic Forces, killing at least 22 civilians,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
Former al-Qaeda in Syria confirms a leader killed in raid
A jihadist group that was formerly al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria on Oct. 3 confirmed that an air strike killed a senior leader after the Pentagon said it had targeted him.
Ahmed Salama Mabrouk, an Egyptian also known by his nom de guerre Abu Faraj “was martyred after a coalition air strike in the west of Idlib province,” the Fateh al-Sham Front said in a statement on the Telegram app.
Born in 1956 in the suburbs of Cairo, Mabrouk was known as a veteran Al-Qaeda leader and a Fateh al-Sham Front commander.