Russia ‘ responsible’ for strike on aid convoy: US
> But Kerry insists efforts to revive truce ‘not dead’
NEW YORK: Syria plunged back into bloodshed yesterday as the UN suspended aid convoys and the United States and Russia wrangled over the blame for air strikes that shattered a short-lived truce.
US officials accused Russia of carrying out Monday’s deadly attack on a humanitarian convoy, three days after Moscow reacted with fury to an Americanled raid that killed dozens of Syrian troops.
Washington and Moscow are the joint sponsors of an international effort to impose a ceasefire on Syria’s five-year-old civil war, and the row undermined efforts to reopen the dialogue.
After a short meeting in New York of the 23-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG), US secretary of state John Kerry tersely insisted that efforts to revive the truce were “not dead”.
The foreign ministers, convened by Kerry and his Russian sparring partner foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, said they would try to meet again this week in talks parallel to the UN General Assembly.
But it was hard to see how the US- Russian mediation could proceed amid the row over the latest strike, which the Red Cross said had destroyed 18 aid trucks and killed about 20 civilians.
“All of our information indicates clearly that this was an air strike,” President Barack Obama’s national security spokesman Ben Rhodes said.
“There only could have been two entities responsible, either the Syrian regime or the Russian government. In any event, we hold the Russian government responsible for air strikes in this space.”
Two Russian SU-24 ground attack jets were operating in the area where the aid convoy was struck in the Aleppo region late on Monday, another US official said.
“The best evaluation we have is that the Russians carried out the strike,” he added, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Previously, US officials had said that even if Syrian President Bashar alAssad’s forces had carried out the attack, Moscow would share the blame as the Syrian regime’s sponsor and guarantor in truce negotiations.
Moscow reacted “with indignation and anger” at what it alleged were attempts by “protectors of terrorists and bandits” to blame Russia or Syria for the attack.
The Russian foreign ministry said the “unsubstantiated, hasty accusations” seemed designed to “distract attention from the strange ‘error’ of coalition pilots”.
This was a reference to Saturday’s bombardment of a Syrian military base by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, an attack which Washington said was a mistake.
The Russian military, meanwhile, said the aid convoy seemed to have been the victim of a mysterious fire it said had erupted while insurgents battled Syrian forces nearby. – AFP