Moscow: Strikes on Syria army threaten US-Russia ceasefire plan

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with reporters during a visit for a summit of former Soviet republics at Kyrgyzstan's international Manas airport outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, September 17, 2016. (Reuters)

Moscow stepped up its war of words with Washington on Sunday, saying air strikes by a US-led coalition on the Syrian army threatened the implementation of a US-Russian ceasefire plan for Syria and bordered on connivance with ISIS.

The diplomatic dispute heated up on the last day of a seven-day ceasefire marred by a surge of violence as warplanes hit the strategic northern city of Aleppo for the first time since the truce came into effect.

In another blow to hopes for the ceasefire, the governor of Homs said several hundred rebels would be evacuated from the last rebel-held district of the Syrian city on Monday, prompting rebels to warn any such step would amount to the government declaring the end of the truce.

On Saturday, the Russian Defence Ministry said US jets had killed more than 60 Syrian soldiers in the eastern Syrian city of Deir al-Zor in four air strikes by two F-16 and two A-10 fighter jets coming from the direction of Iraq.

Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari charged that US-led strikes were aimed at torpedoing the ceasefire but France’s foreign minister, speaking in New York, placed the main blame for truce violations on President Bashar al Assad’s government.

The Britain-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a military source at Deir al-Zor airport reported at least 90 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes.

A US official said the US military believed reports that about 60 Syrian troops were killed but declined to speculate on the number of wounded. Two US officials also confirmed that a tank was among the vehicles hit in the strike, raising more questions about what kind of intelligence led the coalition aircraft to conclude ISIS militants were operating the military equipment.

“The actions of coalition pilots - if they, as we hope, were not taken on an order from Washington - are on the boundary between criminal negligence and connivance with ISIS terrorists,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“We strongly urge Washington to exert the needed pressure on the illegal armed groups under its patronage to implement the ceasefire plan unconditionally. Otherwise the implementation of the entire package of the US-Russian accords reached in Geneva on Sept. 9 may be jeopardized.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
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