Syria: Truce still vi­able af­ter week of airstrikes

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - WEATHER - By Philip Issa

BEIRUT >> Syria’s for­eign min­is­ter said Mon­day that an in­ter­na­tion­ally-bro­kered cease-fire is still vi­able, as res­cue work­ers in Aleppo sifted through the rub­ble from the heav­i­est airstrikes on rebel-held ar­eas of the north­ern city in five years.

For­eign Min­is­ter Walid al-Moallem, speak­ing to Mayadeen TV from New York, also said the gov­ern­ment is pre­pared to take part in a unity gov­ern­ment in­cor­po­rat­ing el­e­ments from the op­po­si­tion, an of­fer that has been re­jected in the past.

Op­po­si­tion ac­tivists say more than 200 civil­ians have been killed in the past week un­der a sus­tained aerial cam­paign that U.N. en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura called one of the worst of the 5 ½-year war. The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil con­vened an emer­gency meet­ing but failed to take any ac­tion be­cause of deep di­vi­sions be­tween Rus­sia and Western pow­ers.

“What Rus­sia is spon­sor­ing and do­ing is not coun­tert­er­ror­ism, it’s bar­barism,” said U.S. Am­bas­sador Sa­man­tha Power. “It’s apoc­a­lyp­tic what is be­ing done in east­ern Aleppo.”

Airstrikes on Aleppo on Mon­day killed at least six peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to the Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees, an ac­tivist-run col­lec­tive. The Bri­tain-based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights re­ported hours later that 12 were killed, in­clud­ing three chil­dren.

Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s me­dia ad­viser told Al-Mayadeen TV that the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment abided by the cease-fire but the rebels did not. Bouthaina Shaa­ban said once the truce ex­pired, “our Syr­ian Arab army re­sumed its op­er­a­tions against ter­ror­ists.”

Al-Moallem ac­cused the U.S., Bri­tain, and France of con­ven­ing the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ing a day ear­lier in or­der to sup­port “ter­ror­ists” in­side Syria. But he said on­go­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov meant a truce agree­ment bro­kered two weeks ago is “not dead.”

Syria’s mil­i­tary de­clared the cease-fire ended one week ago.

The spokesman for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said the cease-fire is in­ef­fec­tive, but that Moscow is not los­ing hope for a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the coun­try’s cri­sis.

How­ever, Dmitry Peskov told re­porters Mon­day that the Krem­lin is con­cerned that “ter­ror­ists are us­ing the cease-fire regime to re­group, to re­plen­ish their ar­se­nals and for ob­vi­ous prepa­ra­tions to carry out at­tacks.”

Peskov also took is­sue with harsh crit­i­cism by the United States and Bri­tain over Rus­sia’s ac­tions in Syria.

He said Rus­sia con­sid­ers the tone of the crit­i­cism un­ac­cept­able and “such rhetoric is ca­pa­ble of caus­ing se­ri­ous harm to the res­o­lu­tion process” in Syria.

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said the Syr­ian and Rus­sian gov­ern­ments “seem in­tent on tak­ing Aleppo and de­stroy­ing it in the process.”

“While they’re pound­ing Aleppo, drop­ping in­dis­crim­i­nate bombs, killing women and chil­dren, talk of a unity gov­ern­ment is pretty com­pli­cated,” Kerry said dur­ing a visit to Colom­bia.

He said the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion won’t be “par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about hav­ing a ne­go­ti­a­tion when they’re be­ing bombed and starved,” adding that state­ments by the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment are “al­most mean­ing­less.”

The White House mean­while said it’s dif­fi­cult to en­vi­sion any mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia in Syria be­cause Moscow has re­peat­edly failed to ful­fill its com­mit­ments to the cease-fire deal.

SANA VIA AP

An anti-Syr­ian gov­ern­ment fighter, left, looks at a Syr­ian sol­dier, right, Mon­day as he leaves the last be­sieged re­bel­held neigh­bor­hood of Al-Waer in Homs prov­ince, Syria.

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