Sun, Sep 18, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Syria truce tested by violence, tensions

SQUABBLE:All sides in the conflict are accusing each other of violating the ceasefire while 40 trucks carrying food for besieged civilians are stuck at the Turkish border


Airstrikes and clashes tested a fragile ceasefire in Syria into yesterday as civilians waited for aid and tensions mounted between the deal’s brokers Russia and the US.

In New York, the UN Security Council canceled an urgent meeting that had been called to discuss whether to endorse the truce, billed as the “last chance” to end the five-year war that has killed 300,000 people.

The closed-door consultations were scrapped after Moscow and Washington failed to agree over disclosing details of the ceasefire to the council.

US Secretary of State John Kerry had earlier called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and condemned “repeated and unacceptable delays of humanitarian aid,” US Department of State spokesman John Kirby said.

Kerry told Lavrov that Washington “expects Russia to use its influence on the [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad regime to allow UN humanitarian convoys to reach Aleppo and other areas in need.

“The secretary made clear that the United States will not establish the Joint Implementation Center with Russia unless and until the agreed terms for humanitarian access are met,” Kirby said.

US President Barack Obama also voiced “deep concern” that the Syrian regime continued to block humanitarian aid. The ceasefire has been marred by a lack of aid deliveries and sporadic violence, including three civilians killed on Friday.

If the truce, which began on Monday, lasts seven days and humanitarian access is granted, Russia and the US are to work together to target extremists, including the Islamic State (IS) group and former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.

Under the truce deal, Moscow must put pressure on al-Assad and Washington must work with Syrian rebels to silence their guns.

Earlier on Friday, Russia said that only Moscow and the Syrian regime were fulfilling the deal.

“Although the ceasefire agreement is bilateral, only one side is truly implementing it,” Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

However, Russia said it was still ready to extend the truce set to expire late on Friday by 72 hours.

France and other council members have said they must first learn more details about the deal before considering whether to endorse it.

The Pentagon also on Friday said that dozens of US Special Operations Forces have been deployed to Syria’s border with Turkey to fight the IS, at Ankara’s request, in support of Turkey’s army and “vetted” Syrian rebels.

Two children were among three civilians killed on Friday in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib Province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Khan Sheikhun, like most of the surrounding province, is controlled by an alliance of rebels and hardline extremists such as Fateh al-Sham.

Under the truce, fighting is to halt across the country except where extremists are present.

However, experts say the deal will be particularly difficult to implement in areas where Fateh al-Sham has formed strong alliances with local rebels.

Earlier in the day, a barrage of rocket fire and shelling could be heard coming from the rebel-held east Damascus district of Jobar, an AFP correspondent said.

Both the militant faction Faylaq al-Sham and Fateh al-Sham are thought to be present there.

The observatory said three extremist fighters and four members of the regime forces were killed.

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