US President Barack Obama insisted diplomacy is the only way to end the brutal five-year conflict in Syria Tuesday, as a ceasefire brokered by Washington and Moscow lay in tatters.
“There’s no ultimate military victory to be won, we’re going to have to pursue the hard work of the diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need,” Obama told the United Nations.
His comments came hours after the Syrian military declared the ceasefire over and 18 UN aid trucks were destroyed as they tried to bring relief to war-ravaged citizens near Aleppo.
Syria and Russia denied striking the convoy, with Moscow suggesting it may have caught fire.
Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry insisted hopes for a ceasefire remain alive after meeting his Russian counterpart and key powers with a stake in the civil war.
In brief remarks to reporters as he left a New York hotel after a meeting of the 23-nation International Syria Support Group (ISSG), Kerry said talks would reconvene later this week.
“The ceasefire is not dead,” Kerry insisted, one day after the Syrian military declared a week-old truce over and launched new bombardments on rebel held cities.
The United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura confirmed that there was still hope of reviving the ceasefire, but admitted that delegates agreed it was in danger.
The ISSG, chaired by Kerry and his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The talks were brief and, participants said, tense.
“The mood is that nobody wants to give this thing up,” Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters.
“Quite frankly the Kerry-Lavrov process is the only show in town and we’ve got to get that show back on the road.”
His French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault agreed that the meeting had been tense but argued other countries should now help Moscow and Washington overcome their differences.
“It was a fairly dramatic meeting, the mood was gloomy. Is there hope. I can’t answer that yet, but we should do everything we can,” he said.
“The US-Russian negotiation has reached its limit. There’s a lot left unsaid. The Russians and the Americans can't do it alone.”
The ministers are in New York for the week to attend the UN General Assembly and officials said they would try to get together again to talk about Syria.
A short distance across the city at United Nations headquarters, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was opening a General Assembly debate with a plea to halt the fighting.
In his Farwell address, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the annual General Assembly debate of world leaders on Tuesday with a call to end the fighting in Syria.
“I appeal to all those with influence to end the fighting and get talks started,” Ban said.
In Syria, fighting continued, one day after a strike on a UN and Red Cross aid convoy marked a low point in what was already a brutal five-year-old conflict.
US officials hold Moscow responsible for what they say was a deliberate air strike, carried out either by Russian forces or strongman Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Moscow and Damascus have both denied being behind the attack, which killed more than 20 civilians including aid workers, pointing the finger at US-backed insurgents. Moscow later said that the convoy caught fire and was not struck from the air.
Russia and Syria are also furious with Washington over a coalition air strike on Saturday that killed dozens of regime soldiers and which Washington admits was a mistake.
Kerry and Lavrov were joined by more than 20 foreign ministers from countries with a stake in the Syrian conflict, including bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.