Kerry's hopes for Russian cooperation in Syria ceasefire

US Secretary of State John Kerry looks for Russia’s cooperation while hoping to make some progress towards renewing cessation of hostilities in Syria.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses media next to Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh following their meeting on Syria in Geneva, on May 1, 2016.

Updated May 2, 2016

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he hoped to make progress in talks in Geneva over the next two days towards renewing a cessation of hostilities agreement throughout Syria and resuming peace talks to end the six year war.

"The hope is we can make some progress," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh shortly after arriving in Geneva.

"These are critical hours, we look for Russia's cooperation."

The Bashar al Assad regime, a strong ally of Russia, hit civilian areas of Aleppo with nearly 30 air strikes on Saturday in the ninth day of deadly bombardments continued, killing nearly 250 people in the city since April 22. Forty children were reportedly among the dead.

Kerry's hastily arranged a visit to Geneva, following a call from UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, so the United States and Russia can salvage a two-month ceasefire in Syria after fierce air strikes left many civilians dead in the city of Aleppo.

Upon international condemnation of Russian air strikes targeting civilian areas and hospitals, Moscow and Washington brokered the Feb. 27 ceasefire deal, which applied to western Syria but excluded the Al Qaeda and DAESH terrorist group. World powers and the United Nations have been trying to salvage the truce.

The Syrian regime forces announced on Friday a "regime of calm," or lull in fighting, which applied to Damascus and some of its outskirts, and parts of northwestern coastal province Latakia. But it excluded Aleppo.

International Law Expert Diala Chehadeh said the regime excluded Aleppo from the ceasefire since it is "crucial for their continuity” to "spend more time in power and to guarantee that they [Assad regime] will stay in power as long as possible."

The dictatorship of Bashar al Assad and his father Hafiz al Assad has been in rule in Syria for more than 45 years.

Russia says talks underway to halt Syrian attacks on Aleppo

Russia has announced peace talks are under way to stop a surge of violence in Syria's opposition stronghold in Aleppo after the United States called a truce elsewhere in Syria be extended to the country's former commercial capital.

The head of the Russian coordination centre in Syria, Lieutenant General Sergei Kurylenko, told Russian news agencies, "Currently, active negotiations are under way to establish a 'regime of silence' in Aleppo province."

Kuralenko, speaking from Russia's Hmeimim air base, also indicated that a halt in fighting in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb to the east of the capital Damascus, had been extended by another 24 hours into Monday. He also stated a halt to fighting was also takig place in northern Latakia Province.

"We are calling on all sides interested in establishing peace in Syria to support the Russian-American initiative and not to allow a regime of silence to be disrupted," Kuralenko said.

John Kerry made clear that a ceasefire was needed throughout Syria and hoped to be able to reaffirm the cessation of hostilities after talks in Geneva. He is due to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir and De Mistura on Monday.

"I hope that in the course of the conversations I have here tonight, tomorrow, and the work that the teams are doing [we can] zero in and pin down the modalities of reaffirming the cessation," he said.

Judeh described the situation around Aleppo as "quite alarming" and said a cessation of hostilities was necessary for Syrian peace talks and humanitarian aid deliveries to resume.

"We have to address the situation on the ground today asserting a nationwide cessation of hostilities that will lead to a better and more conducive environment for the political track," Judeh said.

He added, "It is en entire package: the cessation of hostilities, the negotiations, and the humanitarian access. All three of them are being challenges and we have to address that today."

Kerry and Judeh said they would also discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Judeh said the absence of a "negotiating track" in that dispute was a challenge that threatened stability in the region and beyond.

TRTWorld and agencies