Monday, October 03, 2016

U.S. Suspends Talks With Russia on Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry, left, with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, in Geneva on Sept. 9, the day they announced the cease-fire. CreditPool photo by Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON — The United States followed through on Monday with its threat to formally suspend talks with Russia about Syria because of the Russian military’s role in the assault on the besieged city of Aleppo. The United States also shelved plans for the joint military targeting of jihadists.
“The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the cessation of hostilities,” John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement, referring to the agreement on Syria reached with Russia on Sept. 9.
The decision was announced less than a week after Secretary of StateJohn Kerry threatened to suspend the talks with Russia aimed at reviving the cease-fire agreement.
That deal collapsed after a few days, with each side blaming the other, as Syria and its Russian ally intensively bombed rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the northern Syrian city that has become a focus of the war, which began in 2011.
Roughly 275,000 civilians are trapped in those areas, including an estimated 100,000 children. Hundreds of people there have been killed in the past week, international aid groups say.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” Mr. Kirby said. “The United States spared no effort in negotiating and attempting to implement an arrangement with Russia aimed at reducing violence, providing unhindered humanitarian access, and degrading terrorist organizations operating in Syria,” including fighters of the Islamic State and the Levant Conquest Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda also known as the Nusra Front.
“Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments,” the statement added. “Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the cessation of hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need.”
When Mr. Kerry first threatened a suspension, he asked for more time to continue his discussions with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. The two diplomats talked a few times by telephone but did not resolve the matter.
Even though talks have been broken off, the United States military will continue to “deconflict” its air operations with the Russian military, the State Department said.

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