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Russia: Critical US, British Statements Could Hurt Situation in Syria

  • Margaret Besheer

Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, rescue workers work the site of airstrikes in the al-Sakhour neighborhood of the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, Syria.

Sept. 21, 2016, file photo, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, rescue workers work the site of airstrikes in the al-Sakhour neighborhood of the rebel-held part of eastern Aleppo, Syria.

Russia says it is not losing hope for reaching a political resolution to the crisis in Syria, but that statements made by U.S. and British envoys at the United Nations could hurt the process.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said Monday "terrorists" were using a cease-fire to regroup and rearm themselves. The Syrian government, a Putin ally, often refers to rebels as terrorists.

The comments came a day after the U.N. Security Council held urgent talks about the deadly surge of violence in Aleppo, where Syrian and Russian jet fighters bombarded the rebel-controlled eastern sector of the city.

"The Assad regime is explicit, it believes only in a military solution," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the U.N. Security Council. "It says it is going to conquer militarily every last square inch of Syria. And it does not care what’s left of Syria in pursuing that military solution."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, talks with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power during a Security Council meeting, Sept. 21, 2016, at U.N. headquarters.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, talks with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power during a Security Council meeting, Sept. 21, 2016, at U.N. headquarters.



Power slams Russia, Assad

The United States, France and Britain called the emergency session to pressure Russia to control its ally Syria to end the attacks on the 275,000 people trapped in the city.

The assault, missile strikes, barrel bombs and artillery fire have flattened buildings, leaving streets filled with debris and chunks of concrete. The United States says more than 200 people have been killed in the offensive.

Power said more than 150 airstrikes had hit the city in the past three days, accusing Russia and Syria of conducting an "all-out offensive" to retake Aleppo.

"Instead of pursuing peace, Russia and Assad make war. Instead of helping get life-saving aid to civilians, Russia and Assad are bombing the humanitarian convoys, hospitals, and first responders who are trying desperately to keep people alive," she said.

"Russia should be creating, not destroying, the conditions necessary for the resumption of political talks," British ambassador Matthew Rycroft said. "If it does not take these steps, and more, Russia will only confirm its status as an international pariah."

In this photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows wounded men receiving treatment at a local clinic after airstrikes hit in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2016.

In this photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, shows wounded men receiving treatment at a local clinic after airstrikes hit in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2016.


France cites war crimes

"War crimes are being committed here in Aleppo," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre, who compared what is happening to the ancient city to battles in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Guernica during the Spanish civil war. He said Aleppo has become a "martyred city."

“The territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately and bringing a peace is almost an impossible task now because of this,” said Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin.

U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura gave a bleak update on the situation, saying it is impossible to count the airstrikes.

“Sources on the ground tell us they no longer have the capacity to count them accurately,” he said. “We heard the words “unprecedented” in quantity and also in scale and type, in the types of bombings."

He urged the cessation of hostilities not be "buried under the dust of Aleppo's rubble" and called on the Security Council to press for a stop to the violence, protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and institute weekly unconditional 48-hour pauses to get humanitarian aid in and the seriously wounded out.

Staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent get ready to accompany a convoy of humanitarian aid as it waits in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offices before making their way into the government besieged rebel-held town of Madaya.

Staff from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent get ready to accompany a convoy of humanitarian aid as it waits in front of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) offices before making their way into the government besieged rebel-held town of Madaya.


Aid convoys

U.N. special envoy Jan Egeland said on Twitter convoys were able to reach Madaya and four other towns late Sunday after not being able to access them for 150 days. He called for a cease-fire and the same access to those who need help in Aleppo.

Syria's U.N. envoy Bashar al-Ja'afari also addressed the Security Council, vowing the Syrian government will recapture all of Aleppo. The U.S., French and British ambassadors walked out when the Syrian envoy delivered his statement.

Late Saturday, foreign ministers from the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Britain and high representatives of the European Union pushed Moscow to support humanitarian assistance, stop bombings on Syrians, and renew truce efforts.

“The burden is on Russia to prove it is willing and able to take extraordinary steps to salvage diplomatic efforts to restore a cessation of hostilities, allow unfettered humanitarian assistance and create the conditions necessary for the resumption of U.N.-led talks about a political transition,” the statement said.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC that Russia is "guilty of protracting this war and making it far more hideous" and suggesting that Moscow was possibly guilty of war crimes in the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy near Aleppo last week that killed 20 people.

Islamic State

The allies maintained their commitment to dismantle the Islamic State group and asked Russia to focus on al-Qaida-affiliated groups in Syria.

As the Russian-backed Syrian military pressed its Aleppo offensive Saturday, the country's foreign minister said Syrians would "not relent in their fight against terrorism."

His remarks reinforced Western concerns the Assad government is seeking a military end to the conflict, not a politically negotiated one, and that Russia supports that goal.

Aleppo, the country's largest city, has been divided among government troops, rebel militias, Islamic extremists and Kurdish fighters since 2012.

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