Lavrov says US dragging out talks on Aleppo
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday accused the United States of stalling talks on evacuating remaining rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo, and said it was taking “strange” and contradictory positions. Lavrov said there was still a good chance of reaching a deal, as long as Washington did not change its mind about participating in a meeting of technical experts in Geneva today.
But he also said the fighting would continue until all rebels had left, denying that he had said on Thursday that the Syrian military would halt its activity.
Russia, which backs the Syrian army with air strikes, wants Washington to urge rebel fighters to abandon their remaining territory, which appears to be on the verge of falling, and accept transport out. Russia said yesterday that its forces had helped more than 8,000 Syrian citizens flee parts of eastern Aleppo still controlled by rebels in the last 24 hours, including almost 3,000 children. The UN human rights office said it believed some 100,000 civilians were still in the rebel-held enclave. Lavrov said Washington’s lack of control over Syrian rebels was a factor in its inability to conclude an agreement.
But he also said the State Department did not appear to be “in charge” of all factors, and that some parts of the US government apparently did not support continued negotiations with Russia. Even US Secretary of State John Kerry had publicly denied the existence of a US working paper that had been presented to Moscow last week, Lavrov said.
BETTER TIES UNDER TRUMP?
He appeared to hold out hope of closer cooperation once Donald Trump was sworn in as US president. Trump has vowed to build better ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggested that Washington’s focus in Syria - which along with Russia considers all rebels “terrorists” - should be on fighting Islamic State. “The dedication to fighting terrorism is quite obvious and evident with Donald Trump, much more than the actions of the Obama administration,” he said.
Lavrov was in Hamburg for a meeting of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He said he had raised the issue of military buildups in Europe, where the West says it is responding to aggressive Russian actions, notably in annexing Crimea from Ukraine and supporting a rebellion in eastern Ukraine. — Reuters
HAMBURG: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses a press conference during the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Hamburg yesterday. — AFP