The United States has demanded that Russia restrain the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad amid Moscow’s criticism of US interventionism.
On Thursday, Washington expressed outrage over an airstrike on a hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo, leveling accusations against Damascus and Moscow, which were flatly dismissed by both as unfounded.
Russia and Syria rejected allegations that their warplanes had targeted the hospital in the northwestern Syrian city, with Moscow suggesting that the US-led coalition was instead responsible for the incident.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said that Moscow had conducted no airstrikes in Aleppo in recent days.
Also, Syria’s official news agency SANA quoted an unnamed Syrian military source on Thursday as saying that reports about the Syrian Air Force targeting the medical facility “is untrue and aimed at covering the terrorists’ crimes against civilians.”
However, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the raid matched a pattern of Syrian government strikes.
“We are outraged by yesterday’s air strikes in Aleppo on the al-Quds hospital supported by both Doctors Without Borders and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which killed dozens of people, including children, patients, and medical personnel,” he said.
“While we are still trying to gather the facts surrounding the circumstances of this attack, it appears to have been a deliberate strike on a known medical facility and follows the Assad regime’s appalling record of striking such facilities and first responders,” Kerry added.
The secretary of state said Moscow needed to support peace efforts in Syria, noting, “Russia has an urgent responsibility to press the regime to fulfill its commitments under UNSC R2254, including in particular to stop attacking civilians, medical facilities, and first responders, and to abide fully by the cessation of hostilities.”
The developments come as the latest round of UN-brokered indirect Syria peace talks, which began on April 13, were brought to a halt after the main foreign-backed opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee, walked out of the discussions to protest at what it called the Damascus government’s violation of a Russia-US backed ceasefire in the Arab country.
The ceasefire agreement, which went into effect on February 27 across Syria, initially reduced violence there, but fighting has picked up again especially in Aleppo province, leaving the truce deal in tatters.
According to the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a wave of airstrikes hit the al-Quds hospital in a militant-held neighborhood of Sukkari in Aleppo early on Thursday, leaving dozens dead.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which has furthermore displaced over half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million.