Kerry says US and Russia plan ‘concrete’ Syria steps

Kerry says US and Russia plan ‘concrete’ Syria steps

Kerry says US and Russia plan ‘concrete’ Syria steps

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and US Secretary of State John Kerry attend a joint press conference following their meeting inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in central London on July 19, 2016. AFP photo

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on July 19 that the United States and Russia have planned “concrete steps” for the direction they will take in Syria. 

He also urged Russia to use its influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt Syrian military attacks on opposition groups and civilians. 

Kerry spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by phone earlier on July 19 and discussed ways to resolve the Syria crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. 

At a news conference in London, Kerry described his visit to Moscow last week as “ the concrete steps that the U.S. and Russia are planning to take.” 

“I spoke to Foreign Minister Lavrov again today,” he said. 

“We both believe that we have an understanding of the direction we are going in and what needs to be achieved and our teams will meet shortly and we are going to continue to do that in order to bolster the cessation of hostilities and in order to increase our capacity to fight back against al Qaeda, which is Nusra, as well as fight back against ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant],” Kerry said. 

“We will also do everything in our power to improve delivery of food, medicine, water, incredibly essential humanitarian needs,” Kerry said. 

In a meeting with U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in London, Kerry said it was vital for Moscow to use its influence with the Assad regime to halt its attacks on opposition groups and innocent civilians, which he said were in violation of the cessation of hostilities. 

He also emphasized the need to end all attempts to besiege the city of Aleppo and other besieged towns and ensure full humanitarian access there, according to U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby. 

At the same London news conference, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called on Russia to use its “unique ability” to stop the Syrian conflict by convincing Assad to put an end to five years of fighting that have ravaged the country. 

“Russia in particular has a unique ability to persuade the Assad regime to end the carnage and return to the negotiating table,” Johnson said. 

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and a monitoring group said two explosions that struck a Syrian town near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on July 20 were caused by an Israeli air strike but Lebanon’s Hezbollah blamed rocket fire by al-Qaeda-linked militants. 

At least one blast struck near the governorate building in Baath City, capital of the southern province of Quneitra which borders the Golan region. 

The town is held by pro-Syrian government forces, including the army and Hezbollah fighters. The Nusra Front, Western-backed rebels, and groups which have pledged allegiance to ISIL also operate in the region. 
A Syrian military source said two rockets had hit the town but their origin was unknown. 

“There is information that there was a rocket which fell on one of a government headquarters in Quneitra in the area of the town of Baath,” he said. 

Two Syrian rebels said an Israeli jet had been seen circling the area and carried out an air strike on a military position. 

“Our information is that the attack targeted a Hezbollah outpost,” said Maher al Ali, a spokesman for the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, a Western-backed rebel group. 

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said an Israeli jet fired a rocket near the governorate building. It said it had no information on casualties.