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