The U.S. told Russia on Friday it will not set up a committee to enable joint targeting of militants in Syria until humanitarian aid begins to flow to the besieged city of Aleppo and other areas, the State Department said.
Under the ceasefire agreement, made by US and Russia who back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday was promised,as well as improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the message in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during which he emphasized that Washington expects Moscow to use its influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “to allow UN humanitarian convoys to reach Aleppo and other areas in need,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Aid for Aleppo was stuck on the Turkish border on the fifth day of a fragile ceasefire on Friday with rival factions arguing over how the supplies are to be delivered and violence increasingly undermining the truce.
The two aid convoys contain flour for more than 150,000 people and food rations for 35,000 people
“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, referring to a U.S.-Russian agreement reached a week ago.
The United States and Russia agree on the value of extending the cessation of hostilities that began on Monday despite some continuing violence, Kirby said, but added that Kerry “expressed concerns about the repeated and unacceptable delays of humanitarian aid” during his conversation with Lavrov.
The United Nations has pointed the finger at the government for holding up aid, saying it asked for permission to reach all besieged areas and was denied letters guaranteeing access.
“In order to actually initiate the actual movement of these convoys we need the facilitation letters. They have not come,” U.N. humanitarian affairs spokesman Jens Laerke said in Geneva. “It’s highly frustrating.”
Both sides accuse each other of violating the truce and failing to withdraw from the road that would be used to deliver aid to Aleppo. Moscow said on Friday the Syrian army had withdrawn from the Castello Road but returned its troops there after they came under fire from rebels.
Rebel groups in Aleppo said they had seen no such withdrawal from the government side, and would not pull back from their own positions around the road until it did so.
“The regime has not withdrawn from the area,” Zakaria Malahifji of the Aleppo-based Fastaqim rebel group told Reuters.
The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes. Syria