News / Middle East

    Russia Pitches Syria Cease-fire; West Skeptical

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (right) and Syrian Opposition Leader Dr. Riyad Nijab on Feb. 11, 2016, before a three-way meeting focused on Syria preceding the Munich Security Conference.
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (right) and Syrian Opposition Leader Dr. Riyad Nijab on Feb. 11, 2016, before a three-way meeting focused on Syria preceding the Munich Security Conference.
    Pamela DockinsJamie Dettmer

    Russia is proposing talks about a cease-fire in Syria, but European diplomats are skeptical about the offer, which they see as a delaying tactic that would allow intense Russian airstrikes in Aleppo to continue.
     
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow had submitted a “quite specific” proposal.

    “We will wait for the American response before we take it to the ISSG [International Syria Support Group], Lavrov said in Munich Thursday as he sat down for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry.

    Western media reports say Russia is proposing a cease-fire to begin March 1 - too late to avert a worsening humanitarian crisis in and around Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, near the border with Turkey. A U.S. spokesman said Washington wants an immediate truce.

    FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo made from video footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, a Russian Su-34 bomber drops bombs on a target.
    FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2015 file photo made from video footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry, a Russian Su-34 bomber drops bombs on a target.

    Rebels: End 'Russia's campaign of slaughter'

    A senior member of the Syrian opposition said any cease-fire would be welcome if it ends "the current Russian campaign of slaughter," but there must be guarantees that all of the Damascus regime's backers - including Iran-funded militias and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah movement - observe a truce.

    The head of another rebel coalition, however, said Russia's proposal was simply "a trick which the [Assad] regime will use to prepare for other military operations."

    Kerry said he and Lavrov would have a “serious conversation about all aspects about what’s happening in Syria.”

    The top U.S. diplomat said he hopes for progress on humanitarian access to civilians in Syria as well as a cease-fire.

    Possible turning point in war

    European diplomats told VOA they feel delaying a cease-fire for several weeks would allow Russian and Syrian government troops to complete their operation to retake Aleppo and send even more refugees fleeing toward Turkey.

    Regaining control of Aleppo, which has largely been under rebel control since mid-2012, would mark a possible turning point in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's drive to crush his opponents.
     
    “This is straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook,” said a senior European Union diplomat. He compared the Russian negotiating stance on Syria to Moscow's handling of the fighting between government forces and separatist, pro-Russian militias in Ukraine.

    Syria compared to Ukraine
     
    “Look at Ukraine," the senior diplomat said. "[There were] cease-fires, offers of solutions - but meanwhile on the battlefield, continued pressure.”

    Kerry and Lavrov were to join other members of the 17-nation International Syria Support Group later Thursday - the first full ISSG meeting since talks about a possible political solution to the Syrian crisis bogged down earlier this month.

    Opposition protests against the intense aerial bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian government forces have delayed efforts to resume the U.N.-sponsored talks, along with diplomats' inability to agree on which rebel factions would be included.

    FILE - U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference after a meeting with the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during the peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 1, 2016.
    FILE - U.N. mediator for Syria Staffan de Mistura gestures during a news conference after a meeting with the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (HNC) during the peace talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Feb. 1, 2016.

    Next UN talks in 2 weeks

    U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura has delayed until February 25 the next effort to get "proximity talks" underway. These would include members of the Damascus government and the main opposition groups in the civil war, but not meeting directly with each other.

    A Turkish official told VOA Russia might be talking about a truce now because its military assault on Aleppo is now complete.
     
    “Now they can focus on ... preparing for the next stage – Idlib,” the Turkish official said.
     
    Relief organizations have denounced the world powers for discussing a political solution to the five-year-long civil war while not doing enough to save the lives of endangered civilians.

    Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.
    Syrians gather at the Bab al-Salam border gate with Turkey, in Syria, Feb. 6, 2016.

    100,000 refugees in a week
     
    In the past week, since a donor's conference about Syria in London, nearly 100,000 Syrians have fled from their homes, International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said.

    The ongoing humanitarian crisis is “making a mockery of the international community’s commitment to help Syrians,” the former British Cabinet member said.
     
    Plans to resume proximity talks between the government and opposition hinge on whether world powers can make sufficient progress in efforts to secure a cease-fire and provide humanitarian access to affected civilians.

    Former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says, "The most important thing is to somehow pressure the Russians and the Syrians to stop the aerial bombardments which are causing these floods of refugees.”
     
    However, he added, the U.S. had not shown any “willingness to genuinely pressure Russia.”

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 11, 2016 6:53 PM
    The people of Syria are doomed. There is nothing anyone can do to save them. Russia will bomb Syria entirely flat if it must to save Assad. Humanitarian relief even if it got through would only be a temporary measure for a fraction of those at risk of losing their lives. Russia has a single minded purpose. But in the end, both they and Assad's regime will pay a heavy price. Maybe not this year or next but eventually they will get what they deserve. It always seems to work out that way.

    Meanwhile enjoy the lies on RT TV and Radio Shutnik.

    by: KoreyD from: Canada
    February 11, 2016 5:12 PM
    America doesn't seem to be able to win. They made a mess in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, now Syria and in the process killed about 6 million of those countries' citizens. Even in Ukraine they held all the cards and were left with a basket case. Putin however got Crimea and Sevastopol with a referendum. No deaths, no guns. Just a vote. Now Syria where, America had 5 years to get results all they have created is chaos, thousands more terrorists and millions more refugees. Putin , who is in the right here comes along and appears to be coming in to a positive outcome along with Assad, the Kurds, Iran and Hezbollah. Good for him.

    by: donald storm from: United States
    February 11, 2016 12:04 PM
    What another mess the US has made of the middle east, those poor women and children end up starving while the war mongers and government grabbers still go on with their shenanigans, blaming one another for this and for that, while the innocent go on the run. shame on you all.

    by: Sak from: Thailand
    February 11, 2016 11:03 AM
    If there is any ceasefire, that is the one for those Western backed terrorists to lay down their weapons and leave the city so that the civilians there will no longer be their human shields. There are clear evidence that NATO is supporting terrorists with weapons through Turkey. That criminal activities must be stopped now for the sake of innocent syrians.

    by: Nikos Retsos from: Chicago, USA
    February 11, 2016 11:03 AM
    Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Bashar Assad are on a winning streak in Syria of about 90% of the war. They just need the mopping up of the Saudi and U.S. supported rebels. Unfortunately, the Syrian Arab Spring turned into a U.S.-Saudi Arabia effort to replace Assad with a pro-U.S. and pro-Saudi Arabia Syrian dictator - like Egypt's Fatah al-Sissi , and take out an Iranian and Hezbollah ally - Bashar Assad.

    That angered Russia because such a U.S.-Saudi stooge would have kicked them out of Syria. They poured in, started kicking the U.S. and Saudi rebels, and Assad seems to be the winner as the Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces mopping out the U.S. Saudi coalition. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia had 5 years to find an independent, respectable and neutral Syrian leader and supported him for in independent politically Syria. Instead they went full steam for a Sunni controlled that will have cut off the Shiite Iran and Hezbolla, and that became their undoing!

    The Syrian civil war is practically over. It is just a clean up of the leftover rebels until Russia and Assad claim full victory. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    by: Pete from: USA
    February 11, 2016 10:43 AM
    It is customary practice for USSR and Pinco-Commie countries to declare one thing and do just the opposite. This strategy has been used since 1917. I lived in USSR. The strategy is used to deceive "capitalist dogs", to make the workers work harder, etc.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 11, 2016 4:57 PM
    Hey Pete _ History doesn't repeat itself, and the USSR is long dead and gone, and all these wars and conflicts in the Muslim world in the last 15 years were caused by the US and NATO warmongers, with the Russians only intervening in Syria in the last 4 months to end the war in Syria once and for all? .. And it seems, that the US and NATO will do anything to prevent a Russian victory over the terrorists in Syria?

    No matter how hard the US propagandists and the western news media pundits try, they can't rewrite history? .. The US and NATO couldn't find and defeat the ISIL terrorists in 4 years even when they rode their thousands of pickup trucks with giant black flags flying on them everywhere? .. Nobody can truthfully say, that the ISIL terrorists were hiding from the US and NATO military, can they? .. How many excuses has the US and NATO given for not being able to defeat any of the terrorist groups (even the smallest) that they have been waging a war against for 15 years? .. To many to count?

    by: Derek from: USA
    February 11, 2016 10:09 AM
    Russia's sole goal in Syria is to defend/support the Assad regime. The majority of Russia's airpower in Syria has been directed against anti-Assad rebels supported by the West, not ISIS. Russia has few allies in the Mideast so they need Assad, and Assad needs Russia. Without Russian military aid, Assad's regime would fall. Although Iran backs Assad (his group are a Shiite sect), Russia is the main reason Assad is still in power. The Saudis back the Sunni rebels. ISIS is a dangerous third party that threatens everyone. The whole scene is mess.

    by: annymous from: usa
    February 11, 2016 9:04 AM
    united state will not solve the Syrian issue. it was a great mistake from Obama administration to support the rebel and identify them as a freedom fighters whom in fact are seeking revenge and fighting against Shia . by supporting the rebel the problem is getting more complicated and it is will not solve through diplomatic means . the best course of action is stop intervene because no hope to achieve any positive results

    by: Elias Thema
    February 11, 2016 8:52 AM
    In any war the weaker calls ceasefire. But in this course Russians are calling ceasefire, sound weird isn't .Russians can continue bombarding those evils until they submit and throw weapons down.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 11, 2016 10:23 AM
    Hey Elias _ The Russians are only responding to the US and NATO demands for an immediate Russian and Syrian army ceasefire, by offering the US and NATO a counter offer on terms and conditions that must be met before they would grant a ceasefire to the terrorists/rebels that the US and it's allies support?

    The Russians can guarantee the Russian and Syrian army ceasefire, [but], the US and NATO can't guarantee anything from the terrorists/rebels they support, or the others they don't support? .. Like always, the US and NATO demands everything, but they offer nothing in return? .. And millions of innocent Syrians will continue to suffer and die, or become homeless migrants while the US and NATO continues to prolong the war?

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