Syrian PM says Russia to back new Aleppo attack; opposition says truce close collapse

Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 4:08 PM

With a U. N. messenger due in Damascus in a tender to advance struggling diplomatic efforts, the "cessation of hostilities agreement" brokered by Russia and the United States came below new strain as government and rebel forces fought close Aleppo.

The Russian air force and Syrian military are preparing a joint operation to get Aleppo from rebels, the Syrian prime minister was quoted saying on Sunday, and an opposition official said a ceasefire was on the verge of collapse.

With a U. N. messenger due in Damascus in a tender to advance struggling diplomatic efforts, the "cessation of hostilities agreement" brokered by Russia and the United States came below new strain as government and rebel forces fought near Aleppo.

The ceasefire came into effect in Feb with the aim of paving the way for a resumption of talks to finish the five-year-long war. But it's been widely violated, with each side blaming the other for breaches. The fighting S of Aleppo marks the most significant challenge yet to the deal.

Diplomacy has meanwhile made small progress with number compromise over the future of President Bashar al-Assad, his position strengthened by Iranian and Russian military support.

A top Iranian official, in comments to Iran TV, rejected what he described as a U. S. request for Tehran'south assistance to create Assad leave power, saying he should serve out his duration and be allowed to running in a presidential election "as any Syrian".

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halaki told a delegation of visiting Russian lawmakers of preparations to "liberate" Aleppo, Syria'south biggest city and commercial hub before the conflict that erupted in two thousand-eleventh. Aleppo is divided into areas controlled separately by the government and opposition.

"We, together with our Russian partners, are preparing for an operation to liberate Aleppo and to obstruct all illegal armed groups which haven't joined or have broken the ceasefire deal," he was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

Dmitry Sablin, a member of Russia'south upper house of parliament and a member of the delegation, told RIA news agency "Russian aviation will assistance the Syrian army'south ground offensive operation".

The deployment of the Russian air force to Syria latest year helped tip the war Assad'south way as it bombed rebels supported by his enemies including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States. President Vladimir Putin latest mo withdrew some of the Russian forces, but maintained an air base in Latakia, and kept up strikes on the Islamic State group.

Neither the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front or Islamic State are included in the partial ceasefire.

Rebels have reported the resumption of Russian air strikes S of Aleppo, an necessary theater where Iranian forces and Lebanon'south Hezbollah are fighting in support of the army and the Nusra Front is deployed in near proximity to rebels.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a total of thirty-five combatants had been killed on both sides in a twenty-four hr period in the area, where fighting has been raging for some ten days.


A member of the main opposition council said the last ten days had "witnessed a serious deterioration, to the point where the ceasefire is about to collapse". Bassma Kodmani of the High Negotiations Committee also told Journal du Dimanche that a U. S.-Russian ceasefire monitoring mission was "powerless".

The war has killed more than 250.000 people, created the world'south worst refugee crisis, and allowed for the rise of Islamic State.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said "in Aleppo there is a genuine collapse of the truce".

The army says groups that'd agreed to the cessation of hostilities had taken portion in Nusra Front attacks on government-held positions S of Aleppo. Free Syrian Army groups meanwhile blame the fighting on government violations.

"The air strikes are presently roughly back to what they were," said Mohamed Rasheed, head of the media office with the Jaysh al-Nasr rebel group. A Syrian military source said: "The battles are raging because ... armed groups that were portion of the (truce) joined Nusra in the attack."

The Observatory also reported fighting on Sun between government and rebel forces close the opposition-held town of Douma exterior Damascus, and said government helicopters had dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held areas N of Homs.

Barrel bombs are oil drums filled with explosives. While the government denies dropping them, their utilize has been widely recorded, including by a U. N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria.


U. N. messenger Staffan de Mistura is due to come in Damascus on Sun evening, and is expected to meet Syrian executive on Monday. He said latest week he'd go to Damascus and Tehran to sound out their position on a political transition before beginning a new circular of peace talks on Wednesday.

De Mistura has said the following circular of talks needs to "be quite concrete in the direction of a political process leading to a genuine beginning of a political transition".

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran'south Supreme Boss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei'south top adviser on international affairs, said U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked "Iran to assistance so that Bashar Assad leaves.

"We should ask them: "What does this have to do with you? Shouldn't the Syrian people decide?'"

"From Iran'south point of view Bashar Assad and his government should stay as a valid government and valid president until the finish of his term. And Bashar Assad shall be able to get portion in a presidential election as any Syrian citizen. And their precondition that Bashar Assad should go is a ruddy line for us."

In a sign of Assad'south confidence, the Syrian government plans to keep parliamentary elections on Wednesday. Salim al-Muslat, opposition spokesman, said the vote was illegitimate.

"I don't know how they can really announce an election in Syria. In Idlib or in Aleppo or in Deir al-Zor or in Homs, can people go there and vote?" he said.

(Reporting by Tom Perry in Beirut, Laurence Frost in Paris, Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, and Dubai newsroom; writing by Tom Perry, editing by Philippa Fletcher)

Britain'south 'out' campaigners mistrust the EU, and each other

Britain'south 'out' campaigners mistrust the EU, and each other

Leading campaigners have branded one another elitist, irrelevant and unfit to running a sweet shop — and they're all on the same side. With less than three months to go until a June twenty-three referendum, Britain'south anti-EU campaigners are bitterly...

Israeli boss cites steep drop in Palestinian attacks

Israeli boss cites steep drop in Palestinian attacks

Benjamin Netanyahu said Sun he was citing the figures of Israel'south Shin Bet security service carefully because "this trend could be reversed." But there have been number casualties over the past two and half weeks, the slowest stretch in a seven-month...

Philippines vows to 'destroy' militants who killed eighteen troops

Philippines vows to 'destroy' militants who killed eighteen troops

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top military executive flew to the S to meet most of the fifty-three soldiers who were wounded in fighting with Abu Sayyaf militants that raged for nearly ten hours Saturday in the hinterlands on Basilan island.

Poland honors late president and other plane crash victims

Poland honors late president and other plane crash victims

The allegations arrive from the ruling Law and Justice party led by the late president'south twin. Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his followers claim they've proof that "almost certainly" proves that the president'south plane fell into pieces in mid-air...