Thursday 8 December 2016

Russia 'ready to resume talks with us about Syria'

Published 28/09/2016 | 23:03

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, September 28, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Nikolsky
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, September 28, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Nikolsky

The Russian military has said it is ready to resume contacts with its US counterparts over the situation in Syria.

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The announcement came as US Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to cut all co-operation with Moscow on Syria unless an onslaught on Aleppo ends.

Lieutenant General Viktor Poznikhir of the military's General Staff said on Wednesday that Russian experts are ready to travel to Geneva to restart consultations with the US to "search for possible ways of normalising the situation in Aleppo".

A US-Russian truce in Syria has collapsed and the Syrian government forces backed by Russian war planes have launched an attempt to take control of the rebel-held neighbourhoods of Aleppo.

Mr Kerry said on Wednesday that the US is preparing to "suspend US-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria", including talks on a possible counter-extremist partnership, unless Russian and Syrian government attacks on Aleppo end.

More than 250 people are believed to have been killed in the besieged city in the last week.

Mr Poznikhir did not make any reference to Mr Kerry's statement, saying only that Russia was ready to continue discussions.

"It's expected that Russian experts will be sent to Geneva shortly to resume consultations with the American side," he said.

"We hope that American partners are also ready for joint work."

The US-Russian deal brokered on September 9 envisaged co-operation between the two militaries against the Islamic State group and al Qaida's branch in Syria if the declared ceasefire held, but it collapsed amid renewed fighting and mutual acrimony.

The US blamed Russia for an attack on a humanitarian convoy outside Aleppo, accusations Moscow has denied.

Mr Poznikhir said the Russian military received new information about Syrian rebels' involvement in the attack on the convoy, but he did not offer any details.

Like other Russian officials before him, he has blamed the rebels for the collapse of the truce, adding that an increasing number of Syrian opposition units have integrated with al Qaida's affiliate in Syria.

He also alleged that the militants are preparing to strike sections of Aleppo with chemical weapons to heap the blame on the government.

"It has become known to us that terrorist groups are preparing to strike Syrian army positions and residential quarters in the eastern part of Aleppo with projectiles loaded with toxic agents as a provocation, in order to put the blame on the government forces," he said.

Press Association

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