US withdraws Aleppo proposals, says no consultations yet – Lavrov
Just as the US and Russia were preparing to discuss a solution for Aleppo, which was to involve free passage for all rebels from the part of the city still under their control, Washington abruptly withdrew its own proposal, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
According to Lavrov, the Americans are currently working on an alternative plan for the city. He said the Wednesday consultations are canceled at this point.
“They have withdrawn their document and have a new one. Our initial impression is that this new document backtracks, and is an attempt to buy time for the militants, allow them to catch their breath and resupply,” Lavrov said.
The minister remarked that there would apparently be no serious discussion of the Syrian crisis with the administration of outgoing US President Barack Obama.
“The same thing happened with our agreement of September 9,” Lavrov explained. “The thing that the Americans offered on paper and what we backed is now somehow not OK for them. It’s difficult to understand who makes decisions there, but apparently there are plenty of those who want to undermine the authority and practical steps by John Kerry.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry has intensified contacts with his Russian counterpart after Republican candidate Donald Trump won the presidential election in November. According to reports in the US media, he is making last-ditch attempts to secure a place for rebel forces, which President Obama supported in Syria, in the future of the country.
Kerry delivered a new plan for an Aleppo settlement to the Russians on Friday. Lavrov earlier said that the plan involved the withdrawal of all US-backed rebel forces from eastern Aleppo to Idlib province, with everyone remaining designated as terrorists and legitimate targets for the offensive of the Syrian Army. On Tuesday, the US and Russia were supposed to discuss particular details of the withdrawal.
Some of the armed groups in eastern Aleppo said they would not agree to withdrawal, and pledged to continue the fight. Moscow earlier doubted America’s ability to have the rebels follow its decisions, saying that hardcore jihadists which do not answer to the US dominate in the militant forces in the city.
The pullout talks were called after the Russia-backed pro-Syrian government forces scored several victories in Aleppo and elsewhere in the country. Around half of the territory in Aleppo previously controlled by various armed groups opposing Damascus has been captured. Reports in pro-government Syrian media suggest that several militant commanders are engaged in direct talks with Syrian officials on obtaining safe passage out of the city.
On Monday, Russia and China blocked a draft resolution in the UN Security Council which sought to impose a week-long ceasefire in Aleppo. Moscow said the document was counterproductive and would only allow militants remaining in the city to regroup and continue attacks on government-held areas.
The vote came after a Russian military hospital in Aleppo was hit, killing two Russian paramedics. On Tuesday, Russia reiterated its criticism of Western nations, which, Russia believes, have displayed duplicity regarding international humanitarian law.
“It’s sad that the Western nations, which talk about their concern for human rights and the humanitarian situation in Aleppo and the rest of Syria, are in reality continuing their policy of supporting radicals and extremists,” Lavrov said.