Russia takes concrete steps towards Syria ceasefire, Turkey continues shelling – MoD

Russian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30 SM jets preapre for a mission at Hemeimeem Air Base in the Latakia Province, Syria. © Dmitriy Vinogradov
Moscow has started taking concrete steps towards the ceasefire in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, shelling of the Syrian territory is continuing from Turkey despite the peace deal.

The intensity of Russian airstrikes in Syria has “significantly” decreased over the past two days, Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov told a media briefing on Wednesday. However, the airstrike against terrorist groups such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front are continuing.

I would like to stress that the Russian-US ceasefire agreement does not include ISIS, Al-Nusra Front militants and other militants designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council. Therefore the Russian Air Force is continuing airstrikes against these international terrorist groups’ targets as usual,” he said.

Russia has started taking practical steps towards ceasefire in Syria and expects the same actions from the US, Konashenkov said.

We have started specific and complicated practical work towards the peace settlement in the Syrian Arab Republic. We expect that our American colleagues start taking specific steps instead of talking as soon as possible.

In a telephone conversation between the Syrian and Russian presidents on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Putin that his government was ready to help implement a cessation of hostilities. The two leaders also stressed the need to continue fighting Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front, as well as "other terrorist groups," according to the official Twitter account of the Syrian president.

On Tuesday, Moscow handed over the hotline contact to the US, as required by the joint plan to monitor the truce. As yet there has been no reply from the American side, Konashenkov added.

Despite the peace deal reached between the US and Russia, Turkey is continuing to shell Syrian territory, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Konashenkov urged interaction human rights organizations, to access the actions of the Turkish military.

Instead of accusing us of indiscriminate airstrikes we call on the Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and other organizations to give their official position on these criminal actions by the Turkish armed forces,” Konashenkov said.

A coordination center to reconcile the warring parties in Syria started its work at the Khmeimin airbase near Latakia, on Tuesday.

Local authorities and armed groups are to contact the center to express their willingness to cease firing and join peace talks, Konashenkov said on Wednesday. He added that more than two dozen messages have been received over the past two days.

On Monday, the US and Russia reached an agreement on a Syrian nationwide ceasefire plan and adopted “Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria” – a document that outlines major aspects of the future truce.

According to the plan, the ceasefire is due to begin Thursday at 22:00 GMT, and all the parties should voice their agreement by 10:00 GMT. The truce will be applied to all parties of the Syrian conflict excluding Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations.

Meanwhile, the United Nations carried out its first airdrop of humanitarian aid to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Wednesday, according to UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien, delivering 21 tons of relief civilians besieged by Islamic State militants.

"Earlier this morning a WFP (World Food Programme) plane dropped the first cargo of 21 tons of items into Deir al-Zor," O'Brien told the UN Security Council. "We have received initial reports...that pellets have landed in the target area."