Home » Politics » Blame game tests Syria truce

Blame game tests Syria truce

A picture taken on February 27, 2016 in Akcakale in Sanliurfa province shows smoke rising from the neightbourhood of Syrian city Tel Abyad during clashes between Islamic State Group and People's Protection Units (YPG). ussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry "hailed" the ceasefire in Syria and discussed ways of supporting it through cooperation between their militaries, Russia's foreign ministry said on February 27, 2016. / AFP / STR

Damascus / AFP

Key players in Syria’s war traded accusations on Sunday over violations of the first major ceasefire in the five-year conflict, but the truce remained largely intact on its second day.
Aid groups hope to use the lull in fighting that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population to deliver desperately needed supplies.
A successful truce would also create a more favourable backdrop for peace talks that collapsed in acrimony in early February as a Russia-backed regime offensive in northern Syria caused tens of thousands to flee.
The main opposition grouping on Sunday described the ceasefire as “positive” but vowed to lodge a formal complaint with the United Nations and foreign governments about breaches on the first day.
“We have violations here and there, but in general it is a lot better than before and people are comfortable,” said Salem Al Meslet, spokesman for the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee. He said the HNC had recorded 15 violations by regime forces and allied groups on Saturday around the country, but insisted rebel groups did not return fire.
Meslet said the HNC had not received any maps outlining which areas were included in the ceasefire or documents explaining the monitoring mechanism.
Syria’s Al Watan daily, which is close to the government, said on Sunday that those maps were still being “kept secret”.
The ceasefire does not apply to territory held by the IS extremist group and Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia, a staunch opponent of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, accused Russia of flouting the ceasefire and targeting “moderate opposition” groups.
“Things will become clearer in the coming days on whether the regime and Russia are serious or not about the ceasefire,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said.

‘Strange silence’
Russia, which has waged a five-month bombing campaign to support Assad, blamed “moderate” rebels, Turkey and extremists for nine ceasefire violations.
But “on the whole, the ceasefire regime in Syria is being implemented,” Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, head of Moscow’s coordination centre in Syria, was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
In Damascus, dentistry student Mehdi Al Ani spent Sunday at his university’s cafe with friends, enjoying the sunshine. “Yesterday, we only heard two or three shells—but I pretended like I didn’t hear anything. The ceasefire will continue, God willing,” he said.
In second city Aleppo, children strolled to their first day of school of the week without hugging close to the curb for fear of rocket attacks, an AFP correspondent said.
“There’s something strange in this silence. We used to go to sleep and wake up with the sound of raids and artillery,” said Abu Omar, 45, who runs a bakery in rebel-held east Aleppo.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, reported air strikes —believed to be either Syrian or Russian—on seven villages in the Hama and Aleppo provinces.
It was unclear if the raids hit areas covered by the ceasefire, which excludes territory held by IS, also known as ISIL, and Al-Nusra.
According to Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, only one of the villages, Kafr Hamra in Aleppo province, is controlled by Al-Nusra and the others are held by non-extremist rebels.

‘Positive assessment’
As the recriminations flew, Washington urged all sides to be patient.
“Setbacks are inevitable,” a senior US administration official said.
“Even under the best of circumstances, we don’t expect the violence to end immediately. In fact, we are certain that there will continue to be fighting, in part because of organisations like IS and Al-Nusra.”
A task force set up to monitor the deal described Saturday’s first day as largely successful.
“The United Nations, the United States and Russia have made a positive assessment of the first hours of the cessation of hostilities,” a Western diplomat said after a meeting of the International Syria Support Group in Geneva.
The UN reported “some incidents” in apparent violation of the truce, but “they have been defused”, he said.
UN envoy Staffan de Mistura aims to relaunch peace talks on March 7 if the halt in hostilities lasts and more aid is delivered.

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend