blog archive

Monday, 2 May 2016

‘Critical hours’ for Aleppo as Kerry bids to revive Syria truce

Text by FRANCE 24
Latest update : 2016-05-02

US Secretary of State John Kerry has once more called for cooperation from Russia as he begins urgent talks in Geneva aimed at bolstering a fragile ceasefire in Syria.

Kerry, who will meet the UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and the Saudi and Jordanian foreign ministers on Monday, said a top priority was ending the violence in the northern city of Aleppo, where more than 250 civilians have been killed in the last 10 days.
"These are critical hours," Kerry said upon arriving in the Swiss city late on Sunday. He added: "We look for Russia's cooperation, and we obviously look for the regime to listen to Russia and to respond."
The Obama administration wants Moscow, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to put pressure on the Syrian regime to stop the bombardment of the country’s second city.
Responding to Kerry’s appeals, Russia said Sunday it was working to halt the fighting in Aleppo.
Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, a senior Russian defence official, said talks were taking place to include Aleppo in a temporary lull in fighting declared by the Syrian army in parts of the country – though he did not specify who was taking part in the talks.
The bloodshed in Aleppo has been at the centre of an escalation of violence that has all but destroyed a wider ceasefire deal brokered by Moscow and Washington on February 27.
Kerry is now trying to revive that deal, which US officials see as crucial to the fight against the Islamic State group.
The US secretary of state spoke at length with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, over the weekend, and had been hoping to meet with Lavrov soon, according to US officials.
But Lavrov was not expected to be in Geneva, complicating Kerry's efforts to make the case directly to the Russians for more pressure on the Assad regime.
The Associated Press said US officials are considering drawing up with the Russians a detailed map of Aleppo that would lay out "safe zones" where civilians and members of moderate opposition groups could find shelter.
But it was not immediately clear whether Russia would accept such a plan or if Moscow could persuade the Syrian regime to respect the prospective zones.
Damascus claims its strikes on Aleppo are targeting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist force that was never party to the February ceasefire.
‘Regime of calm’
The Assad government announced late on Friday a "regime of calm", or lull in fighting, which applied to the capital Damascus and some of its outskirts, and parts of the northwestern coastal province of Latakia – but excluded Aleppo.
Rebel groups swiftly rejected the “regime of calm”, saying any truce must include all areas where the government and main opposition were fighting, as under the February deal.
Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city before the war, has long been split between government- and opposition-held areas of control.
It has suffered some of the worst fighting in a war that has killed more than 270,000 people and displaced millions.
Full control of the city would be a huge prize for Assad, whose fortunes have been revived by a Russian military intervention that helped reverse some gains rebels made last year.
Both sides have rained bombardments on residential areas for the past 10 days, killing more than 250 people including at least 40 children, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Medical centres have not been spared. A raid on Wednesday hit a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders and the Red Cross as well as nearby housing, killing 30 people and sparking an international outcry.
On Saturday, many terrified residents fled a new wave of air strikes on the city's east, saying the violence had become unbearable.
The fighting has dampened hopes that the ceasefire brokered in February could finally lay the groundwork for an end to Syria's five-year conflict.
Peace talks last month in Geneva failed to make any headway, though De Mistura, the UN envoy, has said he hopes they can resume "during the course of May".

No comments:

Post a Comment