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Kerry reaches out to Russian counterpart for Syria settlement

US Secretary of State John Kerry has once again appealed to Sergey Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, for help to salvage the ceasefire in Syria amid fierce fighting in the city of Aleppo.

Speaking at the start of a meeting with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Geneva on Sunday, Kerry expressed hope that, with Moscow’s assistance, the US-Russia mediated “cessation of hostilities” which began on February 27 holds.

“These are critical hours. We look for Russia’s cooperation. We obviously look for the regime to listen to Russia and to respond to the international communities’ powerful statement to the UN Security Council,” Kerry said.

The truce deal on Syria, which was reached during the UN-supported peace talks, excluded groups like Daesh and the al-Nusra Front that were officially blacklisted by UN Security Council as terrorists, while allowing humanitarian access to the war-torn parts of the country.

The Syrian Army, backed by Russian military forces who launched an anti-terror campaign last September upon a request from Damascus, have been dealing deadly blows to  terrorists hiding in Aleppo.

The US has been trying to directly make the case to Russia for more pressure on the Syrian government to stop or at least limit attacks in Aleppo.

Kerry argued that “the UN Security Council Resolution calls for a full country, countrywide, cessation and also for all of the country to be accessible to humanitarian assistance. Obviously that hasn’t happened and isn’t happening.”

US officials said Kerry spoke with Lavrov at length on Friday and had been hoping to discuss the issue with him in person.

However, Kerry’s efforts to facilitate the desired US outcome were complicated as Lavrov was not expected to join him in Geneva.

In Geneva, Kerry met with Judeh and was slated to meet UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Monday before returning to Washington.

Syria’s High Negotiations Committee, a major Saudi-backed opposition group which has militants on the ground in the conflict-ridden country, has warned that if Damascus does not stop fighting in Aleppo, the UN-led peace initiative would totally collapse.

However, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Saturday that Moscow will not seek a halt to Syrian airstrikes on Aleppo’s militant-held areas.


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