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10 May, 2016 22:40

Kerry thanks Russia for Syria ceasefire which 'saved lives'

Tens of thousands of lives have been saved and a million people have received aid, thanks to Syria ceasefire established with Russia’s help, US Secretary of State John Kerry said. However, he was critical of Moscow’s ‘unworkable’ proposal to end the war.

Russia and the US announced Monday that they would work towards reviving February's ceasefire agreement, which has deteriorated since. Much of the renewed fighting is taking place in the northern city of Aleppo, where Syrian government forces are fighting against Al-Nusra militants, who are considered terrorists and were exempt from the ceasefire.

“We would not have gotten the initial ceasefire without Russia. And literally tens of thousands of lives were saved. You can add it up: 200 people a day were being killed. That stopped for a period of time,” Kerry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday. “People hadn’t received any humanitarian assistance for years. Almost a million people have now received humanitarian assistance, and so there has been some benefit to this. Is it perfect? No. Are there still problems to work out? Yes.”

Citing the battles in Aleppo, Amanpour argued that Russia was not a partner of the US, but rather of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Russia has an interest in not being bogged down forever in Syria,” Kerry countered, adding, “Russia has an interest in not becoming the target of the entire Sunni world and having every jihadi in the region coming after Russia.”

“If Russia is going to avoid a morass in Syria altogether, they actually need to find a political solution,” Kerry explained. “Right now they are angling for the political solution they want. And it's not necessarily a workable equation.”

Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Washington has maintained that the government in Damascus “lost legitimacy” by fighting “its own people.” Both the Pentagon and the CIA have sent weapons and equipment to “moderate” rebel groups in Syria, with the publicly stated aim of opposing Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

During a meeting with top military officials and arms manufacturers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the US-Russian cooperation in Syria would “lead to positive and fundamental changes.”

Putin commended the military on the six-month-long air operation in Syria, during which over 500 villages and towns were liberated from terrorists. Russian air strikes were “accurate, powerful and effective,” he said. “Precisely these factors helped achieve a radical turn in the battle against the militants.”

However, the situation in Syria “remains complicated” and the most important objective is to “establish conditions for the political settlement in the country,” Putin said.

Kerry later used the same phrasing in the CNN interview.

“You have Kurds versus Kurds, you have Kurds versus Turkey, you have Saudi Arabia and Iran, you have Sunni and Shiite, you have people again Daesh [IS] and people against Assad. I mean, this is a very complicated battlefield,” he said.