US blames Syrian regime for violation of cessation deal

US accuses Syrian regime forces for increasing violence, including actions that are in contravention of cessation of hostilities that is crucial for Geneva peace negotiations

Photo by: Department of State
Photo by: Department of State

United States Department of State spokesperson Mark Toner speaks at a press conference.

The United States State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, on Monday said in a press briefing that the US was “very, very concerned”  over the escalation of violence in Syria, blaming Syrian regime forces, ahead of the planned peace talks in Geneva this week.

"We are very, very concerned about the recent increase in violence and that includes actions that are in contravention of the cessation of hostilities," Toner said.

The spokesman also added that US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on Sunday reflected the US concerns over the ongoing situations in a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

"We would say that the vast majority of violations have been on the part of the regime," the spokesman said, when asked who was to blame for the violations.

Kerry wanted to make sure that in the days leading up to peace talks "every extra effort is made in order to sustain and solidify the cessation of hostilities," Toner said.

Washington is also concerned about a reinforcement to the city of Aleppo by Syrian regime forces, which threatens a fragile cessation deal in the run-up to the second round of peace talks.

Toner stated that the United States wants to assure opposition forces were not attacked, as regime forces seeks to take Aleppo.

"If they are attacking members of the Syrian opposition who have signed on to the cessation of hostilities, then those are violations of the cessation of hostility," Toner said, adding that "We need greater clarity what is actually planned, who are they targeting."

The cessation deal, agreed between the US, which supports the Syrian opposition, and Russia, which backs Syrian regime, started on February 27. The deal excluded the DAESH terrorist organisation and Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliated al Nusra Front.

The deal aimed to pave the way for the United Nations-backed talks in Geneva, meant to resume on Wednesday, to solve the five-year conflict.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December to start the talks and called for elections in Syria to be held 18 months after a transitional government is agreed on.

The first round made little progress with no sign of compromise over the thorniest issue, the fate of Syria’s Bashar al Assad.

Next step in negotiations is ‘crucial’

The UN special envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said in Damascus on Monday that an upcoming round of negotiations in Geneva would be "crucially important."

"The Geneva talks' next phase are crucially important because we will be focusing in particular on the political transition, on governance and constitutional principles," de Mistura told reporters, after meeting the regime’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem.

"We hope and plan to make them constructive and we plan to make them concrete," he added.

The special envoy also warned that offensives of Nusra Front and its allies triggered a spike in violence that could harm the negotiations.

De Mistura said that he had also discussed a shaky ceasefire that has been in place since February 27 with Muallem.

"We did raise and discuss the importance of protecting and maintaining and supporting the cessation of hostilities which is fragile but is there, and we need to make sure that it continues to be sustained even when there are incidents to be contained," the envoy said.

TRTWorld and agencies