Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to address the situation in the Middle East during the 71st session of the UN General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York on September 21, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says militants in Syria
have taken advantage of the ceasefires enforced in the crisis-hit Arab country to regroup, stressing that Syrian government forces would no more stop fighting unilaterally.
Addressing a crisis meeting on Syria at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in New York on Wednesday, Lavrov underlined the need for reining in militant groups on the ground to ensure they respect the truce.
He further called for a review of a list of terror groups not covered by the ceasefire in the violence-wracked state, stressing that Washington had the biggest responsibility to separate the so-called opposition forces from terrorists.
“If we can agree on this kind of comprehensive approach, an integrated multi-faced approach, the chances of a cessation of hostilities surviving and being successful will be better,” he added.
Elsewhere in his comments, the top Russian diplomat urged a “thorough and impartial investigation” to look into a recent airstrike targeting a humanitarian aid convoy near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, which killed around 20 people.
The United Nations said at least 18 trucks in a 31-vehicle convoy were destroyed late Monday as they came under attack while en route to deliver humanitarian relief to the hard-to-reach town of Urum al-Kubra.
Aid is seen strewn across the floor in the town of Urum al-Kubra on the western outskirts of the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo on September 20, 2016, the morning after a convoy delivering aid was hit by a deadly airstrike. (Photo by AFP)
Lavrov described the incident as “an unacceptable provocation,” adding that the Russian side had offered up all the information it had concerning the attack.
He further reiterated that neither the Russian military nor the Syrian army were behind the deadly air raid.
“Our military officials have already made a statement that our Air Forces have not worked there. The Syrian aviation could not work there either because the attack on the convoy occurred during night time,” he said.
Monday’s incident came hours after the Syrian army declared an end to the week-long ceasefire brokered by Moscow and Washington in the Middle Eastern country.
The Truce was the second attempt this year by Russia
and the US to bring an end to the Syrian crisis that started in March 2011.
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York on September 21, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
During the Security Council meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that the bombing of the aid convoy near Aleppo raised “profound doubt” whether Russia and the Syrian government “can or will live up to” ceasefire obligations.
He further demanded that Moscow and Damascus immediately halt flights over Syrian battle zones to revive what he called a last chance to save the ceasefire in Syria.
US-led coalition drone was near Syria aid convoy
In a relevant development on Wednesday, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that a US Predator drone was in the area where the aid convoy was hit.
The drone had taken off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey, arrived in the area a few minutes before the convoy caught fire, and left about 30 minutes later, Konashenkov said in a statement.
Such drones are armed with air-to-ground missiles, he said, adding, “Only the drone’s owners know what it was doing there at the necessary moment and what tasks it was carrying out.”
Syria won’t become Libya or Iraq: Envoy
Meanwhile, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari told the UNSC crisis meeting that his country was ready to resume peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict there, emphasizing that Syria “will not become another Libya or Iraq.”
“My country is ready to resume intra-Syrian dialogue with no preconditions and according to decisions and foundations that launched this very dialogue in order to reach a political solution that is decided by the Syrians,” he said.
The latest round of the negotiations between Syria’s warring sides began in the Swiss city of Geneva in April, but they were brought to a halt after the main opposition group walked out of the talks and declared a “new war” on the government.
Russia to deploy aircraft carrier to Syrian coast
In another development on Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (seen below) announced that Moscow was dispatching its flagship aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, to reinforce its forces in the Eastern Mediterranean off Syria.
The aircraft carrier will join other Russian ships near Syria’s shores, he added without elaborating on when it will be sent.
“Currently, the Russian naval deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean consists of no less than six battleships and three or four support vessels,” he said, adding, “In order to bolster the military capabilities of the group, we plan to add the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier to the group.”