US must do all it can to stop terrorist flow from Turkey to Syria - Russia's UN envoy
The UNSC held a closed-door meeting as another round of peace talks is due to in Geneva. This will be the second meeting since the beginning of the truce brokered by Moscow and Washington in February.
While a fragile ceasefire is generally being observed in the war-torn country, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council via video-conference from Tehran that the escalation in Aleppo province, and in parts of Hama province and Damascus, are cause for concern.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the closed-door meeting, Churkin said de Mistura had confirmed that Al-Nusra Front "had launched an offensive in the region of Aleppo" against Syrian forces. The envoy also noted that during discussions some members of the Security Council voiced concern that the militant build up in Aleppo "may call into question" the upholding of the ceasefire.
"The situation is very complicated and some Security Council members have expressed concern that if the situation around Aleppo escalates, it could call into question the current cessation of hostilities, which is already holding for more than a month," the diplomat said.
On Monday, the Russian military announced that based on their intelligence, some 10,000 terrorist fighters have practically encircled Aleppo and are actively preparing to storm the city. Moscow also warned that Turkey continues to send men and weapons to Al-Nusra Front in Syria across its border.
But the Russian and UN warnings of the massive jihadist forces buildup around Aleppo, were misconstrued by US envoy Samantha Power who told reporters after the meeting that US was "very alarmed" by Syria's plans to launch a counter-offensive in Aleppo.
"That would be devastating, for the people of Aleppo of course, but also to this intricate process where the cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and political negotiations are all related to one another," she said.
Power also noted that Moscow should "get the regime [in Damascus] back with the program." "Right now, there are signs that this is slipping and it is a much more delicate environment for de Mistura to convene political talks.”
In response, Churkin said, “We all have to do something. We all have to work on advancing the political process.”
"These 'close allies' [Washington and Ankara] must ensure that Turkey's territory is not used to funnel fighters. Only in the last few days it was observed that a few thousand fighters from Turkey crossed into Syria, many of them into the Aleppo district," Churkin said.
Returning to the issue of the ongoing peace negotiations in Geneva, he said that Turkey is threatening to disrupt the peace process if Syrian Kurds are invited to the negotiations table.
Turkey is “threatened to make negotiations impossible, that the situation will explode, if the Syrian Kurds are invited," Churkin said, calling such an approach “completely irrational."
Churkin once again reiterated Moscow's position on the necessity to include the Kurds in the peace process, saying that otherwise the Syrian Kurds are “beginning to think of a Federation.”
"If they do not participate in a process that lays the foundation for the future of Syria, they will think about their own future. We do not want to see that because we want to preserve the territorial integrity of Syria,” he said.