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US suspends Syrian ceasefire talks with Russia

The US had threatened to end talks with Russia over its bombing of rebels [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 October, 2016

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The US on Monday suspended negotiations with Russia to revive a failed ceasefire in Syria and set up a joint military cell to target jihadists, the State Department announced.

The United States on Monday suspended negotiations with Russia on efforts to revive a failed ceasefire in Syria and set up a joint military cell to target jihadists.

"This is not a decision that was taken lightly," State Department spokesman John Kirby said, accusing Russia and its Syrian ally of stepping up attacks on civilian areas.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest added: "Everybody's patience with Russia has run out."

"What is clear is there is nothing more for the US and Russia to talk about with regard to trying to reach an agreement that would reduce the levels of violence inside of Syria. And that's tragic," Earnest said.

Kirby said the Russian and US militaries will continue to use a communications channel set up to ensure their forces do not get in each other's way during "counterterrorism operations in Syria."

But the United States is calling back home personnel who had been sent to Geneva in order to set up a "Joint Implementation Center" with Russian officers to plan coordinated strikes.

And US diplomats will suspend discussions with Russia on reviving a September 9 deal reached between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Under that protocol, a truce came into effect on September 12, but it collapsed within a week amid bitter recriminations and a surge of fighting in the five-year civil war.

Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments, including its obligations under international humanitarian law.
- John Kirby, State Department spokesman

Washington has accused Moscow of failing to rein in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces and abetting his strikes on civilian targets.

Moscow, meanwhile, says the United States failed to separate "moderate" anti-Assad rebels from jihadists linked to al-Qaeda.

"Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments, including its obligations under international humanitarian law," Kirby said.

According to the US spokesman, Russia was "either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.

"Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the cessation of hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas," Kirby added.

Kirby accused Moscow and Damascus of "targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need."

And he repeated Washington's charge that Russia and the regime were responsible for the deadly September 19 attack on a United Nations aid convoy in northern Syria, outside Aleppo.

Meanwhile, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the US is trying to shift blame onto Russia by suspending cooperation with Moscow over a ceasefire in Syria.

Russian media quoted Zakharova as saying that Washington had not fulfilled key aspects of a ceasefire deal brokered with Moscow, while Russia had taken steps in recent days to sustain that deal.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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