Fri | Sep 22, 2017

US, Russia seek to salvage truce; Syria calls it finished

Published:Tuesday | September 20, 2016 | 9:00 AM

BEIRUT (AP):

Syria's military yesterday declared that the United States-Russian-brokered ceasefire was over, shortly after the Russian military said it was "meaningless" to continue observing the agreement. The Syrian declaration and Moscow's statement came amid mounting violations and an exchange of accusations between Russia and the United States.

Soon after, the US said it's prepared to extend the fractured ceasefire despite numerous violations and the Syrian military's announcement.

It was unclear Monday evening whether the agreement - which has brought a brief respite to the war-torn country - would truly collapse on the ground. Shortly before the Syrian military declaration, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that the truce was "holding but fragile".

Residents of eastern Aleppo shortly reported the resumption of airstrikes in their besieged areas. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The government also said it repelled an insurgent attack on areas it controls south of Aleppo.

"It would be good if they didn't talk first to the press but if they talked to the people who are actually negotiating this," he said. "As I said yesterday, (it's) time to end the grandstanding and time to do the real work of delivering on the humanitarian goods that are necessary for access."

But Kerry also acknowledged that the first stage of the truce - which called for a week of calm and the delivery of humanitarian aid to several besieged communities - had never really come to fruition.

The State Department later said that it was ready to work with Russia to strengthen the terms of the agreement and expand deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Spokesman John Kirby said Russia, which is responsible for ensuring Syria's compliance, should clarify the Syrian position.

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement late Monday night appeared to signal that the deal could still be salvaged, saying that the failure by the rebels in Syria to respect the ceasefire threatens to thwart the agreement.