We can’t let ISIS & Al-Nusra exploit lack of ceasefire in Syria – Lavrov after Syria meeting

 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (left) and US Secretary of State John Kerry © Eduard Pesov
The armed opposition must reciprocate with Syrian government peace efforts and not let terrorists benefit from the stalled ceasefire, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. His US counterpart claims Russia has not yet produced a “constructive” offer.

The members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) who convened on Thursday for the second time on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly failed to revive the crumbled truce in Syria following what UN Syria’s envoy Steffan de Mistura dubbed “long, painful and disappointing” talks, as cited by Reuters.

“We can’t go out to the world and say we have an agreement when we don’t,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists, as cited by AP.

Speaking of the obstacles that remain in the way of further progress in the Syrian peace process, Lavrov pointed to the “attempts on the part of some of our partners to make it so that only unilateral steps are taken by the Syrian government.”

Russia, for its part, is urging all parties to the conflict to adhere to the ceasefire thrashed out by Russia and the US in Geneva.

“We insist and find support for steps being taken by the opposition as well, so as not to let Jabhat Al-Nusra take advantage of this situation,” Lavrov said, adding that while “the details need to be worked out” ISSG members have developed the “general understanding” of this premise.

Kerry, in turn, blamed Moscow and Damascus for allegedly not delivering their part of the agreement, demanding the immediate grounding of all aircraft that he said were carrying out airstrikes in Syria.

“Absent a major gesture like this, we don’t believe there is a point to making more promises or issuing more plans or announcing something that can’t be reached,” he said.

On Thursday, Syrian armed forces launched a new offensive in eastern Aleppo, urging civilians to keep away from the areas where the terrorist forces are stationed.

Moreover, the Syrian military command vowed “no detention or inquiry to any citizen [who] reaches the points of the Syrian Arab army” in a statement distributed by the state SANA news agency. 

The announcement has reportedly enraged Kerry, who was informed of the operation during the meeting, according to an unnamed official cited by AP.

Despite the recent setbacks, Washington also believes that the “processes laid out in Geneva earlier this month were and are the right ones,” Kerry said. 

READ MORE:US airstrikes on Syrian troops were ‘intentional,’ lasted nearly 1 hour – Assad to AP

“The renewal of the cessation of hostilities, the resumption of aid deliveries, the isolation of Nusra [Front] and Daesh [Islamic State / IS / ISIS] and the beginning of a negotiating path” were named by the US top diplomat as the essential ingredients for “restoration of a united Syria.”     

He went on to stress that Washington will “pursue every avenue of progress that we can because it is the only way to stop the killing, it is the only way to ease the suffering,” adding that there is “no such thing as a military solution in Syria.”

Although, the group, co-chaired by Russia and US, made little progress at Thursday’s meeting, the hopes for the truce to be renewed are still there. 

“If the Russians come back to us with constructive proposals we will listen,” Kerry said, referring to next meeting of the ISSG, scheduled to take place Friday.

De Mistura, who was rather skeptical about the outcome of the negotiations, noted that time was slipping away to find a solution on Syria, saying that the parties have only “hours, days” at their disposal to “make or break” the ceasefire deal.

He put the blame on the so far unsuccessful implementation of the agreement to the both Syrian opposition and the government forces “who have so far not wanted, or have tried to not deliver on the cessation of hostilities” and thereby “undermined” Russia’s and US efforts to put it into force.

In order to bring peace to the war-torn country, he argued the parties need to ensure the implementation of two cornerstones of the deal, namely “detaching the armed opposition from Al-Nusra and grounding the Syrian air force.”

“You would see a different Syria the day after,” he concluded.

Earlier Thursday, AP published, or leaked, one of the five documents of the Russia-US comprehensive agreement signed by Lavrov and Kerry on September 9. The documents were also published on the US State Department website.

“We believe that the publishing of these documents will contribute directly to their implementation and the way toward the Syrian settlement,” Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.