Syria peace ef­forts plunge as US ends talks with Rus­sia

The Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry expresses “deep dis­ap­point­ment” about the move

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Wash­ing­ton

In­ter­na­tional ef­forts to end the fight­ing in Syria have been dealt a se­ri­ous blow, with the United States sus­pend­ing di­rect con­tacts with Rus­sia on halt­ing the war, and chilly re­la­tions turned even frostier af­ter Rus­sia put a hold on a plu­to­nium dis­posal deal with Wash­ing­ton.

The two de­ci­sions, an­nounced in their re­spec­tive cap­i­tals just hours apart on Mon­day, were os­ten­si­bly un­re­lated but un­der­scored deep mis­trust and ris­ing ten­sions be­tween the for­mer Cold War foes, who are in­creas­ingly at odds on a num­ber of is­sues, par­tic­u­larly Syria and Ukraine.

The moves fur­ther re­duce ar­eas of Wash­ing­ton-Mos­cow co­op­er­a­tion, yet their most im­me­di­ate im­pact may be the po­ten­tial death blow de­liv­ered to halt­ing at­tempts to re­vive a mori­bund cease-fire in Syria, get des­per­ately needed hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to be­sieged com­mu­ni­ties and be­gin ne­go­ti­a­tions on po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion that could mean the ouster of Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said it de­cided to cut­off dis­cus­sions on Syria be­cause Rus­sia had­not lived up to the terms of last month’s agree­ment to re­store a tat­tered cease-fire and en­sure sus­tained de­liv­er­ies of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to be­sieged cities, such as Aleppo, which has been un­der bom­bard­ment from Rus­sian and Syr­ian forces.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “What’s clear is that there is noth­ing more for the United States and Rus­sia to talk about with re­gard to try­ing to reach an agree­ment that would re­duce the vi­o­lence in­side of Syria and that’s tragic.”

‘Deal with the devil’

“This is not a de­ci­sion that was taken lightly,” State Depart­ment spokesman John Kirby said in a state­ment. “Un­for­tu­nately, Rus­sia failed to live up to its own com­mit­ments ... and was also ei­ther un­will­ing or un­able to en­sure Syr­ian regime ad­her­ence to the ar­range­ments to which Mos­cow agreed.”

In Mos­cow, the Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry is­sued a state­ment, ex­press­ing “deep dis­ap­point­ment” about the US move and blast­ing Wash­ing­ton for the fail­ure to sep­a­rate the rebels from al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.

“Wash­ing­ton’s de­ci­sion re­flects the in­abil­ity of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion to ful­fill the key con­di­tion for the con­tin­u­a­tion of our co­op­er­a­tion in overcoming the Syr­ian cri­sis,” the state­ment said. “Or, per­haps, it never had an in­ten­tion to do so. We are un­der a grow­ing im­pres­sion that in its striv­ing for a much-de­sired change of power in Da­m­as­cus Wash­ing­ton is ready to ‘make a deal with the devil’ and forge a union with ter­ror­ists who want to turn his­tory back­ward and en­force their in­hu­man norms by force.”

The min­istry added that “the stakes are high,” and warned that the “White­House will bear the blame if Syria come un­der new blows by ter­ror­ists.”

The US had agreed to sep­a­rate the rebel groups but noted it was an ex­tremely slow process. The US has rel­a­tively few per­son­nel on the ground in Syria and even the mod­er­ate rebels have said they are frus­trated with the pace of US help.

The sus­pen­sion in Syria talks was an­nounced just hours af­ter the Krem­lin said Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had signed a de­cree halt­ing a joint pro­gram with the US on the dis­posal of weapons grade plu­to­nium.

The de­cree cited the “emerg­ing threat to strate­gic sta­bil­ity as a re­sult of US un­friendly ac­tions,” as well as Wash­ing­ton’s fail­ure to meet its end of the cease-fire deal. It said, how­ever, that Rus­sia will keep the weapons-grade plu­to­nium cov­ered un­der the agree­ment away from weapons pro­grams.

Un­der the agree­ment, Rus­sia and the US each were to dis­pose of 34 met­ric tons of plu­to­nium, enough ma­te­rial for about 17,000 nu­clear war­heads. It was signed in 2000.

What’s clear is that there is noth­ing more for the United States and Rus­sia to talk about with re­gard to try­ing to ... re­duce vi­o­lence in­side of Syria.” Josh Earnest, White House spokesman

DELIL SOULEIMAN / AFP

Peo­ple carry a wounded woman on a stretcher in­side the Al Rahma Hospi­tal on Mon­day in the city of Qamishli. A sui­cide bomber killed at least 14 peo­ple in an at­tack tar­get­ing a wed­ding party of a mem­ber of the Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces.

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