US once again forced to turn to Rus­sia for help in Syria

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON—Scram­bling to re­sus­ci­tate a nearly dead truce in Syria, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has again been forced to turn to Rus­sia for help, with lit­tle hope for the de­sired U.S. out­come.

At stake are thou­sands of lives and the fate of a fee­ble peace process es­sen­tial to the fight against the Is­lamic State group, and Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry has ap­pealed once more to his Rus­sian coun­ter­part for as­sis­tance in con­tain­ing and re­duc­ing the vi­o­lence, par­tic­u­larly around city of Aleppo.

Kerry spoke at length on Fri­day with Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov to that end, and had been hop­ing to meet with Lavrov soon, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials. Kerry was sched­uled to ar­rive in Switzer­land late Sunday for talks with U.N. en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura, Saudi For­eign Min­is­ter Adel alJubeir and Jor­da­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Nasser Judeh, and planned to re­turn to Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day.

But Lavrov was not ex­pected to be in Geneva, com­pli­cat­ing Kerry’s ef­forts to make the case di­rectly to the Rus­sians for more pres­sure on their Syr­ian gov­ern­ment al­lies to stop or at least limit attacks in Aleppo.

The State Depart­ment said Kerry, in his mee tings, would “re­view on­go­ing ef­forts to reaf­firm the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties na­tion­wide in Syria, ob­tain the full hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess to which the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment com­mit­ted and sup­port a po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion.”

Spe­cific, vi­able op­tions to achieve those broad goals are limited, and Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment of a new, par­tial cease-fire that does not in­clude Aleppo un­der­scored the dif­fi­culty Kerry faced.

U.S. and other of­fi­cials de­scribed that ini­tia­tive, bro­kered mainly by Rus­sia and the United States as co-chairs of the In­ter­na­tional Syria Sup­port Group, as a “re­in­force­ment” of the Fe­bru­ary truce, now largely in tat­ters, that they hope to ex­tend from Da­m­as­cus and the cap­i­tal’s sub­urbs and the coastal prov­ince of Latakia to other ar­eas.

“This is an agree­ment within the task force, but cer­tainly on the part of the U.S. and Rus­sia that there would be a re­in­force­ment of the ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties in these spe­cific ar­eas as a start, with the ex­pec­ta­tion that this ... would be then ex­tended else­where,” State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner said.

For Aleppo, the U.S. is con­sid­er­ing draw­ing up with the Rus­sians a de­tailed map of the city that would lay out “safe zones.” Civil­ians and mem­bers of mod­er­ate op­po­si­tion groups cov­ered by the truce could find shel­ter from per­sis­tent attacks by Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s mil­i­tary, which claims to be tar­get­ing ter­ror­ists.

One U.S. of­fi­cial said “hard lines” would de­lin­eate spe­cific ar­eas and neigh­bor­hoods. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear whether Rus­sia would ac­cept such a plan or if Moscow could per­suade the As­sad gov­ern­ment to re­spect the prospec­tive zones.—AP

IS­LAM­ABAD: A large num­ber of faith­ful par­tic­i­pated in the three-day ‘Tableeghi Ij­tima’ at Sec­tor I-11/1.

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