U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday efforts to end Syria’s war must continue despite Washington’s decision to break off talks with Moscow over what he called its “irresponsible” support for Bashar al-Assad’s war.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September. the offensive includes a ground assault, artillery bombardment, and intensive airstrikes.
Since 19 September, more than 600 civilians have been killed and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
The United States on Monday suspended talks with Russia on implementing a ceasefire deal in Syria, accusing Moscow of not living up to its commitments to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.
“We are not giving up on the Syrian people and we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace,” Kerry said in a speech in Brussels.
“We will continue to pursue a meaningful, sustainable, enforceable cessation of hostilities throughout the country – and that includes the grounding of Syrian and Russian combat aircraft in designated areas.”
Kerry accused Russia of turning a blind eye to Assad’s use of chlorine gas and barrel bombs and suggested it was pursuing a scorched earth policy in place of diplomacy.
“As we know, this tragic war has been made worse by the utter depravity of the regime, that doesn’t hesitate to still use gas, chlorine, mixed with other ingredients to kill its citizens, that drops barrel bombs on hospitals and children and women,” he said.
“You also have the irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised decision by Russia to associate its interests and reputation with that of Assad, a man who has been responsible for torturing more than ten thousand people.”
He said that if Russia was serious about peace, it would have to behave differently than it was now in Syria. “Russia knows exactly what it needs to do in order to get that cessation implemented and in a fair and reasonable way,” he said.
Kerry said all parties had a duty to enable delivery of humanitarian assistance.
European foreign ministers will meet on Oct. 17 to discuss what they can do to help bring peace, after the European Union proposed a new humanitarian plan at the weekend in coordination with the United Nations for the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo.
But a senior European diplomat said there was little chance that Russia would change strategy, asserting that Moscow was resorting to the same tactics it used on the Chechen capital Grozny, which was devastated in 1994-96 and 1999-2000 wars by Russian forces intent on keeping Chechnya in Russia.
“Their objective is the total destruction of the opposition. They have a Chechen vision of the conflict. Their method is submission by force,” the senior diplomat said.
The Assad regime forces, backed by Russian air power, Iranian ground forces and Shi’ite militia fighters from Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been tightening its grip on rebel-held districts of Aleppo this year, and this summer achieved a long-held goal of fully encircling the area.
Recovering full control of the rebels’ last significant urban area would be the most important victory of the war so far for Assad, strengthening his control over Syria’s most populous and strategically important regions.
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.