News / Middle East

    US, Russia Launch Cease-fire Talks; No UN Action on Turkey

    FILE - A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani.
    FILE - A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani.
    Pamela DockinsMargaret Besheer

    The U.S. and Russia have launched talks on brokering a cease-fire in Syria after failing to make Friday's scheduled deadline for a pause in fighting.

    Officials from the two countries sat down for talks in Geneva late Friday to try to find a way for a long-term cessation of hostilities that would help efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to besieged areas.

    The 17-nation International Syria Support Group agreed to form a Syria cease-fire task force, under the auspices of the U.N., during a meeting last Friday in Munich. The group agreed that Russia and the U.S. would co-chair the task force.

    Under the group's plan, an initial cessation of hostilities would begin in one week, while the task force worked out the mechanics of a broader cease-fire plan.

    Complex endeavor

    Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the challenges for reaching a deal.

    "Everyone recognizes the complexity of this endeavor, and there is certainly a lot more work to do," he said during a stop in London en route to Amman, where he planned to discuss Syria's crisis with Jordanian officials.

    FILE - In this image made from video provided by Hadi Al-Abdallah, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, smoke rises after airstrikes in Kafr Nabel of the Idlib province, western Syria, Oct. 1, 2015.
    FILE - In this image made from video provided by Hadi Al-Abdallah, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, smoke rises after airstrikes in Kafr Nabel of the Idlib province, western Syria, Oct. 1, 2015.

    The Syrian opposition has said it wants a cease-fire and an expansion of humanitarian aid to besieged areas before it resumes U.N.-facilitated talks with the Syrian government.

    Those proximity talks, which were due to resume February 25, have now been delayed.

    State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. agrees with the Syrian opposition that a cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance would be "helpful," but believes the talks should resume with no preconditions.

    Russian rejection

    Meanwhile, a Russian effort to muster U.N. Security Council condemnation of Turkey's actions on the Syrian-Turkish border appeared to fail Friday.

    Russia called for an urgent meeting of the council to discuss its concerns that Turkey may be planning to send ground troops into Syria. The Russian delegation presented a one-page draft resolution that would condemn such a move. It also "strongly" condemned cross-border shelling, the flow of terrorist fighters and the illegal movement of weapons from Syria's "neighbors."

    "The main elements of this Russian draft resolution are to demand all parties — all parties — refrain from interfering in internal affairs of Syria, to fully respect sovereignty and independence, stop incursions, and abandon plans of ground operations," Russia's deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, told reporters after the closed-door meeting.

    But diplomats said at least six of the 15 council members rejected the resolution outright when it was presented and only one member — Venezuela — expressed support.

    FILE - Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, ouside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, July 24, 2015.
    FILE - Turkish soldiers patrol near the border with Syria, ouside the village of Elbeyli, east of the town of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, July 24, 2015.

    One diplomat said that even China — which normally allies its position with Russia on many council issues — expressed reluctance, saying it would have to wait for instructions from Beijing before expressing an opinion.

    Current resolution

    "What's really important is that, rather than trying to distract the world with the resolution they just laid down, it would be really great if Russia would implement the resolution it's already agreed to," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in a reference to Resolution 2254, which the council adopted in December.

    That resolution lays out a framework for starting political talks and, in parallel, establishing a nationwide cease-fire in Syria. So far, attempts to implement the resolution have failed.

    "We have a resolution on the books. It's the right resolution. We've committed ourselves to it, and we need Russia to do the same,"  Power added.

    Turkey's U.N. envoy, Yaşar Halit Çevik, dismissed Russian allegations that Ankara is planning on launching a ground operation in Syria.

    "Our political leaders are quite open in saying that Turkey will not be going into Syria with boots on the ground if it is not a collective action," he told reporters.

    He said Turkey would consider military intervention only if the Security Council or the international coalition called for it.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: TheOX
    February 20, 2016 4:42 PM
    "All parties - all parties"
    Except Russians of course.

    by: Anonymous
    February 20, 2016 2:14 PM
    Turkey = ISIS and AQ

    Western politicians: corrupt puppets in the pockets of Saudi Arabia and Turkey

    Proof?
    Hypocrisy towards Turkey's mass killing of its Kurds, Turkey's incursion into Syria and Iraq, Turkey's backing of ISIS and AQ with no complains from the west.

    by: Al from: Seb
    February 20, 2016 4:41 AM
    Why? Why is turkey getting away with murder!? This is the country that committed Genocide against Armenians and now against Kurds. Shame on supporters of erdogan's bloody politics.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    February 20, 2016 3:18 AM
    I feel sorry for the US for supporting the terrorist supporting state of Turkey. I feel sorry for other countries in the UN for not supporting Russian draft resolution on Turkey because those countries are under heavy influence of the US so they cannot take fair actions.
    If Turkey continues its wrong way, it will face complete destruction one day.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 20, 2016 9:33 AM
    Hey Igor _ IF the Russians did what the US wants, and gets rid of Assad and his Shia Muslim government and replaced it with the US standby trained and supported Sunni Muslim pro-western government, wouldn't that solve all the problems in Syria, [because], the Sunni Muslim terrorist/rebels would then stop raping, enslaving, torturing and killing the innocent Syrians and peacefully join the Sunni Muslim Syrian government, wouldn't they?

    [The US was at war against the terrorists], but for some strange reason the US decided to arm and train tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim crazies to wage a proxy war against Assad? .. Assad isn't a danger to any country, but the terrorists are a real danger to the world, but the US continues to arm the terrorists/rebels (that are a world power now) to get rid of Assad who isn't a threat to anybody? .. Crazy? .. it's beyond insane?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 19, 2016 10:41 PM
    A Wise Man would like to know if anybody on this earth has ever heard of any US participation in any peace talks that has ever brought peace and an end to any of their conflicts or wars since WW2, [or], did the US participation in the peace talks only bring a ceasefire and both sides divided with no peace?

    Did the US bring peace in Korea, Vietnam (lost war), Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, or (Ukraine)? .. The US isn't good at negotiating peace, are they? .. They always have to many demands to make peace possible? .. Especially since it's always a foreign country the US is negotiating peace for? .. what does the US care if millions of innocent foreigners suffer and die? .. just thinking?

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