The US is still reluctant to take measures to force rebels under its control to implement the Syrian ceasefire, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, adding that if things do not change, Washington will be the sole side responsible for the failure of the truce.
“After five days of the ceasefire, it has to be noted that only the Russian and Syrian sides have been fully implementing their commitments. On its own initiative, Russia prolonged the cessation of hostilities for 48 hours, and yesterday it was extended for another 72 hours,” senior Russian General Staff official, Viktor Poznikhir, said at a briefing in Moscow.
But, according to Poznikhir, it is very different on the American side as “the US and the so-called moderate groups under their control didn’t fulfill a single commitment undertaken in the framework of the Geneva arrangements.”
The Russian official pointed out that “the main priority of the Russian-American agreements of September was the division of territories controlled by IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, and the areas controlled by the ‘moderate opposition,’ as well the separation of the ‘moderate opposition’ from Jabhat al-Nusra.”
Such a division is essential for the implementation of the ceasefire in Syria because “without it, the hands of the government forces are tied. They can’t fight the terrorists without knowing which of them joined the truce and who didn’t,” he explained.
Numerous Russian appeals to the American side remain unanswered, which “raises doubts over the US’s ability to influence opposition groups under their control and their willingness to further ensure the implementation of the Geneva agreements.
The United States didn’t reply to any of our appeals containing information on ceasefire violations by US-controlled armed groups. Moreover, the US side declines telephone conversations, including those planned in advance, as it happened yesterday. This indicates that the United States does not control the situation in Syria and is not ready to take steps to force US-controlled militants to implement ceasefire.
“Russia is making every possible effort to hold off government troops from the use of force in return [to opposition attacks]. If the US does not implement the necessary measures to fulfill their obligations under the September 9 agreements, the responsibility for the failure of the ceasefire will be solely America’s,” Poznikhir said.
The inaction of the American side has already led to a worsening of the situation in Syria, the General Staff official stressed.
“Tensions are rising in Syria, especially in the provinces of Aleppo and Hama, where opposition groups are using the cessation of hostilities to regroup forces, refill their stocks of ammunition and weapons and are preparing an offensive in order to capture new territories,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir said that an agreement had been reached on allowing a humanitarian convoy access the besieged Damascus suburb of Moadamiyeh. “The Syrian government guarantees the humanitarian convoy’s passage through the territory under its control, but the issue of its passage through areas controlled by moderate opposition, which is influenced only by the United States, remains. Measures have still not been taken to separate moderate opposition controlled by the United States from al-Nusra Front,” he added.
“In the past 24 hours, the number of attacks has increased drastically. The positions of government troops, the people’s militia, and civilians were fired at on 55 occasions,” Poznikhir added.
Last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, and US Secretary of State, John Kerry, agreed to influence the Syrian government and the so-called moderate rebel forces respectively in order to establish a ceasefire in the country.
Since then, Russia has repeatedly complained that the US is failing to keep its part of the bargain. While the US, on its part, blamed Russia for not pressuring Damascus enough to facilitate humanitarian access to Syria.
Speaking at a briefing Friday, senior Russian General Staff official Viktor Poznikhir said that Syrian government forces were first to withdraw from the strategic Castello road into Aleppo under the latest US-Russian agreement on Syria. However, they had to return to their positions after being shelled by rebels, he added.
“On the Castello road, governmental forces have pulled back tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery to an agreed distance to create a demilitarized zone,” senior Russian General Staff official Viktor Poznikhir told journalists in Moscow during a briefing Friday.
Poznikhir added that the US-backed opposition groups did not take any similar actions. At the same time, the deputy chief of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, Sergey Kapitsyn, said that radar images and visual observation also show that opposition groups did not withdraw from the road.
Kapitsyn stressed that Syrian army forces came under “heavy mortar and small-arms fire” near the Castello road. As a result, two Syrian army soldiers sustained heavy injuries, he said, adding that government forces had to return to their initial positions to prevent the militants from taking control over the future demilitarized zone.
The Castello road should serve as a humanitarian corridor to deliver much-needed UN aid to civilians in the besieged city and the neighboring regions, according to the agreement negotiated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his US counterpart, John Kerry, in Geneva on September 9. However, the situation in the Aleppo region could still put the creation of the demilitarized zone around the road in jeopardy, the Russian military has warned.
As shown above, the Syrian government will guarantee safe passage of aid through their own territories, but cannot do so for the U.S.’s jihadis who fail to hold up their end of the bargain. The Syrian foreign ministry said today:
The Syrian government confirms that is has done everything possible to ease humanitarian convoy access to eastern Aleppo. Meanwhile, the convoy’s security is not guaranteed as militants continue shelling the road which the convoy has to take.
Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin:
“Lately I’ve heard some encouraging news about the humanitarian effort [in Syria]. If the humanitarian effort is going to proceed as planned then hopefully also all other elements [of the US-Russia deal] are going to kick in including the start of the operation of the Joint Implementation Group,” Churkin told journalists on Friday, adding that the “cessation of hostilities regime has been holding, for the first 48 hours and another 48 hours…it will be sufficient for the Joint Implementation to go into effect.”
“We have no doubt that it [US-Russia agreement] needs to be implemented. If they [Americans] have some doubts, I don’t know. Clearly, there is a lack of unity within the US administration…The deal was made and we expect it to be implemented.”