Russia, US not giving up on Syrian peace settlement after cooperation suspended

© Abdalrhman Ismail
Russia will continue looking for a settlement to the Syrian crisis, despite Washington’s decision to suspend cooperation, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has stressed. His US counterpart, John Kerry, also said on Tuesday that peace efforts must continue.

“We are not giving up and will spare no effort to have the UN Security Council resolutions [on Syria] implemented,” Lavrov was cited as saying by Tass. “We believe the International Syria Support Group can and must play a major, leading role in it,” he added.

On Monday, Washington announced that it was curbing cooperation with Moscow aimed at sustaining the ceasefire in Syria.

The US claims that it made the move because Russia had failed to deliver on promises to assure that Damascus suspended its military campaign and provide humanitarian access to besieged areas of Syria, in accordance with a deal reached on September 9.

“Regrettably, from the very beginning, there have been many, including those in the US administration, seeking to ruin those agreements,” he said. “And it’s even more regrettable that yesterday it was achieved by those who oppose political settlement of the Syrian crisis, oppose the implementation of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council, and who openly seek to employ a force scenario.”

According to Lavrov, cooperation between Moscow and Washington was shattered by those in Washington seeking to settle the Syrian crisis by force.

The Russian FM explained that, because of those “internal contradictions,” the American side had been “unable to implement its liabilities under our agreements not only regarding the separation of the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ from Jabhat al-Nusra, but also in what concerns the extremely clear, concrete liabilities of unblocking the Castello Road as a major route to solve Aleppo’s humanitarian problems.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that that Washington will be looking for peace in Syria without Russia.

“I want to be clear that we are not giving up on the Syrian people and we are not abandoning the pursuit of peace,” Kerry was cited as saying by Reuters.

“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,” he added.

The Secretary of State criticized Russia over what he called an “irresponsible and profoundly ill-advised decision” to back Syrian President, Bashar Assad.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said during a briefing on Tuesday that the US would now be "looking at a range of options" for further diplomatic solutions to the crisis, and suggested closer contact with the International Syria Support Group, a loose coalition of regional and global players that includes Russia, the US, China, the UN and the EU.

“We haven’t permanently closed the door, but I think we would need to see something – some action by Russia or the regime, or both, that really led us to believe that there was any reason to pursue it again,” Toner said, when asked by RT whether the move to cut ties with Russia was a diplomatic or political one.

“I would just note that – and we’ve talked about this before – it was a suspension,” he said.

The State Department has also stressed that the decision was not made “in haste,” citing “events on the ground.”

At the same time, commenting on the question regarding Russia’s accusations that Washington failed to fulfil its obligations to separate rebels from terrorist groups, Toner said: “It’s a hard thing to do, given the circumstances.”

Russia first deployed an air force contingent in Syria in 2015 after receiving a request for military help from the Syrian government, which is currently battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terror groups.

A source a German foreign ministry told German paper Tagesspiegel that senior officials from the US, UK, France, Italy and Germany are to hold a meeting in Berlin on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Syria.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on Russia and the US to swiftly return to the negotiation table.

READ MORE: US suspends bilateral contact with Russia over Syria

“I strongly urge to resume their negotiations so that there will be a cessation of hostilities so that we can deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance. And that will also provide some momentum for confidence-building to initiate political dialogue,” Ban said at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.