Rus­sia ‘ re­spon­si­ble’ for strike on aid con­voy: US

> But Kerry in­sists ef­forts to re­vive truce ‘not dead’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

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

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