News / Middle East

    Russia, France Dispute Moscow's Actions in Syria

    Children walk down a street in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 12, 2016.
    Children walk down a street in Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 12, 2016.
    Luis RamirezPamela Dockins

    Russia's prime minister says accusations his country is bombing civilians in Syria are "just not true."  

    Speaking Saturday at a security conference in Munich, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said "there is no evidence" of such bombings.

    He made the comment moments after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on Russia to stop bombing civilians in Syria, saying it was crucial in order to reach any peaceful solution.

    The Russian and French prime ministers are among delegates from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere meeting again Saturday in attempts to end nearly five years of violence in Syria.

    On Friday, just hours after world leaders announced a deal at the conference to push for a cessation of hostilities in Syria within a week, the agreement was put to the test.

    In an interview published Friday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French News Agency that his forces planned to “retake the whole country,” fueling doubts about the parties’ commitment to end the nearly five-year-old conflict.

    Assad said recapturing all of the territory could take “a long time.” The Syrian president said he supported peace efforts, but he cautioned that the negotiations did “not mean that we stop fighting terrorism.”

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, addresses the media on Feb. 12, 2016, at the Hilton Hotel join Munich, Germany, following a meeting of the International Syria Support Group.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, addresses the media on Feb. 12, 2016, at the Hilton Hotel join Munich, Germany, following a meeting of the International Syria Support Group.

    Holes in the deal

    Observers who acknowledged disconnects in the deal agreed Thursday that those discrepancies could allow Assad’s forces, with Russia’s help, to keep up their assault on rebel areas.

    For one, the agreement does not provide for any truce in the Syrian government’s fight against terrorists, including Islamic State militants and the al-Nusra Front.

    The Assad government considers all opposition fighters — both moderates and extremists — terrorists. Russia has continued to bomb what it says are terrorist targets, enabling Assad’s forces to make considerable gains recently around Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.

    Syrian rebels continue to accuse Russia’s warplanes of indiscriminately striking civilians and the moderate opposition.

    FILE - Refugees and migrants disembark on a beach after crossing a part of the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.
    FILE - Refugees and migrants disembark on a beach after crossing a part of the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.

    Measured expectations

    In announcing the deal to push for a pause in hostilities, U.S. officials were cautious in their expectations.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said the agreement was “on paper” only, emphasizing that “the real test” would be whether all parties honored their commitments.

    U.S. officials laid out the mechanics of the multinational plan designed to provide Syrians with relief from military strikes. Crafted by the International Syria Support Group, it calls for a “cessation of hostilities.” The Syrian opposition requested that the pause in military action be labeled a “cessation” as opposed to a cease-fire, Kerry said.  

    Later in a Friday briefing, a senior State Department official elaborated on the distinction, saying the Syrian opposition thought a cease-fire indicated a formal end to the fighting in which the “political objectives that underlie the conflict have either been abandoned or resolved,” a situation that has not occurred in Syria.

    “The bottom-line objective is to stop the violence,” said the official.

    Another objective is to allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians in rebel-held areas. This was one key condition that representatives of the Syrian opposition said had to be met before they would rejoin indirect peace talks that broke off last week in Geneva. U.S. and U.N. officials are working to resume the dialogue later this month.

    As part of the plan, the U.S. and Russia will head a task force that will work to delineate the territory held by terrorist groups and resolve any noncompliance with the cessation.

    “In terms of how this is going to play out, I think you can expect that it will not be smooth and it will not be clean,” the senior State Department official said. “There will be problems to work through, perceived violations — most likely on both sides.”

    The Syrian opposition stopped short of welcoming the agreement, but saw it as an incremental step forward. Salem Meslet, speaking for the main opposition group, the High Negotiations Committee, said, “We must see action on the ground in Syria.”

    There were questions about whether the agreement by world leaders to seek a cessation of hostilities in Syria marked the beginning of a lasting deal for peace, or whether it was simply a stopgap measure by world politicians to make it appear as though they were addressing a situation that is out of control.

    FILE - Russian Tu-22M3 bomber drops bombs on a target in photo made from video footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, Dec. 9, 2015.
    FILE - Russian Tu-22M3 bomber drops bombs on a target in photo made from video footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, Dec. 9, 2015.

    Following through on humanitarian aid

    International human rights advocates on Friday urged world leaders to follow through with commitments they say could alleviate the suffering of millions of Syrians.

    “It is essential that strenuous diplomatic efforts continue beyond today’s headlines to ensure that the human rights and humanitarian-related provisions agreed are adhered to by all parties,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, in a statement to VOA.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: bookbinder from: London
    February 13, 2016 6:19 AM
    The root cause of terrorism in the Middle East is the brutal, medieval kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Universally despised round the world it provides all the funding and accompanying ideology for terrorists. Bring that regime down and within a couple of years terrorism in the world will be more than halved.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 12, 2016 10:40 PM
    What are moderate rebels??? They are suni terrorists groups haboured and supported by Western nations and some dictatorship suni countries in the region such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Quatar...to overthrow the secular government of Syria, which is a russian ally. To achieve their dirty geo-political purposes they are supporting those man eating animals (the rebel used to eat organ of a syrian soldier captured by them)

    by: Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 5:17 PM
    No such thing as "moderate rebel" in Syria.

    All of them are extremist AQ groups, under b.s. names like FSA, Turkmen Brigades...

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora