US drops Russia talks as regime advances in Aleppo
THE US abandoned its effort to convince Russia to impose a ceasefire on the Syrian regime as government forces pursued their relentless onslaught on eastern Aleppo.
Accusing Moscow of abetting Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad’s assault on civilian districts of the city, Washington said it had suspended bilateral talks with Russia on reviving a truce.
“Everybody’s patience with Russia has run out,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said.
A State Department official said US Secretary of State John Kerry is “laser-focused” on finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict through multilateral channels but his near-daily telephone calls and regular Geneva talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the crisis are over.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, announcing an end to plans to set up a joint US-Russian military cell to target jihadists.
The Russian and US militaries will keep a communications channel set up to ensure their forces do not get in each other’s way during “counterterrorism operations in Syria”, Mr Kirby said.
But US personnel who had been sent to Geneva to set up a Joint Implementation Center with Russian officers are coming home.
“We regret this decision by Washington,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, Russian agencies reported.
A truce was declared on September 12 under a deal Mr Kerry and Mr Lavrov signed in Geneva last month, but it collapsed within a week.
Washington accused Moscow of failing to rein in Mr Assad’s government forces and of carrying out air strikes on civilian targets, including a UN aid convoy.
Moscow, meanwhile, says the United States failed to separate “moderate” anti-Assad rebels from jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.
The US spokesperson accused Moscow and Damascus of targetting hospitals and preventing aid from reaching desperate civilians.
The aid agency Doctors Without Borders reacted with fury to the latest hospital bombings, saying strikes on clinics in Syria and Yemen leave “the global medical community in speechless shock”.