The United States and major nations in Europe harshly criticized Russian actions in Syria on Sunday and said it was up to Moscow to take “extraordinary steps” to renew a ceasefire in the war-torn Middle East nation. “The burden is on Russia to prove it is willing and able to take extraordinary steps to salvage diplomatic efforts to restore a cessation of hostilities,” said the statement from the Foreign Ministers of France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the High Representative of the European Union.
The statement issued a litany of reasons—including the bombing of an aid convoy last week and the Russian-backed regime siege of the city of Aleppo—that “blatantly contradicts Russia’s claim that it supports a diplomatic resolution.” The statement comes less than one week after the aid convoy was struck by an unknown force believed to be either Russian or Syrian regime aircraft.
The Western powers said the Syrian regime and Russian actions are why it was Russia’s responsibility to “take extraordinary steps to restore the credibility of our efforts, including by halting the indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime of its own people, which has continually and egregiously undermined efforts to end this war.”
Meanwhile, a Saturday report from The New York Times, based on witness accounts, videos, social media and other sources, indicated that the aid convoy attack last week was done by either the Russians, the Syrian regime, or both. Air strikes are privately believed by diplomats, anonymously cited in The New York Times article, to be the culprit for the assault that killed 21 civilians and destroyed 18 aid trucks.
The Syrian civil war has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and created a refugee catastrophe. It has also turned into a mini-world war, with nations around the world either backing one side or the other, or attacking ISIS and their bases within Syria.
Sunday’s statement from the Western powers cited ISIS, also known as Da’esh, in their critique of Russia. “We reaffirm our commitment to the destruction of Da’esh in Syria and Iraq and urge Russia to follow through on its pledge to actually focus on this group.”
In language unusually strong for international diplomacy, the statement included something of an ultimatum for Russia in Syria. Noting their support for calls from the International Syria Support Group to continue diplomacy on Syria’s issues, the Western powers “underscore that patience with Russia’s continued inability or unwillingness to adhere to its commitments is not unlimited. We therefore also call on the [United Nations] Security Council to take urgent further steps to address the brutality of this conflict, and particularly the assault on Aleppo.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, September 25, 2016)