Lavrov, Kerry discuss Moscow’s proposal to join against militants violating Syria ceasefire – FM

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. © Leonhard Foeger
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry have discussed the possibility of joining forces to carry out attacks on militant groups breaking the ceasefire in Syria.

During a phone call on Monday Lavrov and Kerry discussed the current state of affairs in Syria, paying special attention to a recent proposal from Moscow that envisions joint US-Russia military attacks on militant groups and other terrorist networks which disregard the ceasefire, Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The initial US response to the proposal made by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Friday was rather lukewarm.

“There is no agreement to conduct joint air strikes with the Russians in Syria. What we are discussing with our Russian counterparts ... are proposals for a sustainable mechanism to better monitor and enforce the cessation of hostilities,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

In his turn Shoigu warned that starting from Wednesday, Russia would not hesitate to conduct an air-strike on any group not covered by the ceasefire.

Speaking to Kerry, Lavrov also stressed that Washington should fulfill its promise to distinguish the US-backed Syrian opposition from Al-Nusra Front militants.

In April Russia filed a request with the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the United Nations Security Council to put two groups on the sanctions list: Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam. The proposal was declined. The groups reportedly regularly violate the ceasefire.

Al-Nusra Front militants continue to undermine the ceasefire in Syria by shelling the towns of Handarat and Hailan, Al-Nayrab airport and the neighborhoods of Sheikh Maqsood and Halidia in Aleppo, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Monday.

“The shelling from multiple rocket systems ran for 24 hours,” the Ministry of Defense online statement said.

Some residential areas in the province of Latakia, including Ard al-Vata, Kinsibba as well as the city of Al-Salamiyah in the province of Hama and Marj al-Sultan in the province of Damascus have suffered substantial shelling, the statement also said.

Syrian armed forces have taken control of high points in the Palmyra region, ousting Islamic State militants, Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported. The army also prevented terrorists from seizing a power station in the province of Hama.

“Government forces have pushed Islamic State militants from several high points in the Palmyra region and didn’t let them occupy a power station in the Hama province,” an online statement published on Russia’s Defense Ministry website reads.

The ceasefire introduced in Syria on February 27 doesn’t apply to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front which makes it possible to deliver strikes against their installations.

The so-called cessation of hostilities deal was struck by the Russian ceasefire center at the Khmeimim airbase in Latakia province, and the US coordination center in Amman in Jordan.