BEIRUT — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman says a U.S. refusal to cooperate with Russia on Syria would be a gift to “terrorists.”
Maria Zakharova said in a Thursday Facebook post that if Washington follows up on its threat to cut off cooperation with Russia in trying to settle the Syrian crisis, it would mean that “the White House has taken the militants under its wing.” She added it would make the best possible “present to terrorists.”
Zakharova’s statement comes amid escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington after the collapse of a U.S.-Russia-brokered truce and the Syrian army’s onslaught on Aleppo.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Washington is “on the verge” of ending Syria talks with Moscow in response to days of deadly attacks on Aleppo.
Germany’s Foreign Minister has called his Russian counterpart to urge Moscow to support a cease-fire lasting longer than 48 hours in Syria and to put pressure on Damascus to respect any truce.
Diplomatic officials said Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov late Thursday and urged him to resume talks with the United States on Syria in Geneva.
The officials, who weren’t authorized to be quoted by name, said Steinmeier warned that the longer Syria deploys its air force and ground troops in eastern Aleppo, the further away the chances of ending the violence would become.
Steinmeier is expected to meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Friday.
The leaders of Germany and Turkey are condemning what they say are “blatant breaches of international humanitarian law” reported from Syria recently and renewed calls for a ceasefire.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State group, her office said.
It said that the Syrian government’s offensive against Aleppo — backed by Russia — had sharply increased the suffering of the civilian population in the city.
Merkel’s office said the two leaders agreed that “Russia has a special responsibility to calm the violence and thereby give any chance to a political process.”
The U.N. humanitarian chief says eastern Aleppo has descended into the “merciless abyss of humanitarian catastrophe” as the number of people living in besieged areas across Syria grew to 861,200 from 586,200.
Speaking to the Security Council in a video link from Geneva, Stephen O’Brien painted a grim picture of the violence, which since Sept. 22 — when a short-lived ceasefire hammered out between the U.S. and Russia unraveled — has seen 320 civilians, including 100 children, killed and 765 injured.
O’Brien said some of those in the Security Council chamber shared the blame for inaction on Syria and end his speech saying it was time to “place the blame.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry has taken sharp offense at a State Department spokesman’s comments, claiming they show the United States is backing terrorists in Syria.
The harsh statement Thursday by ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov underlined the sharp spike in public animosity between Moscow and Washington over Syria, focusing on the battle for control of Aleppo.
State Department spokesman John Kirby, asked on Wednesday what the consequences would be for Russia if cooperation with the U.S. in Syria collapsed, said “that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there … which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags.”
The Russian spokesman on Friday painted this as proof of American complicity in global terrorism.
“His words are the most frank confession by the U.S. side so far that the whole ‘opposition’ ostensibly fighting a civil war in Syria is a U.S.-controlled international terrorist alliance,” Konashenkov said in a statement. “What makes Kirby’s statement particularly shocking is that the scale of direct U.S. influence on terrorists’ activity is global, and that it reaches as far as Russia.”
“We are fully ready to continue the dialogue with America and elaborate joint measures of fighting terrorists in Syria. However, this dialogue must exclude even a hint of a threat to our military and Russian citizens,” he said.
Syrian activists say airstrikes have hit the last remaining bakery serving a town north of the besieged city of Aleppo, putting it out of service.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says a number of airstrikes hit the town of Anadan and its bakery Thursday, and put the bakery out of service.
Adnan Medlej, an activist from Anadan, says the bakery was hit shortly after it distributed bread to the town’s remaining 2,000 residents and others in nearby villages. After coming under intense bombing and devastating its infrastructure, most of the town’s residents have fled to other areas in rural Aleppo.
A video shot by Medlej shows the bakery destroyed and a crater outside, with water leaking and walls torched.
On Wednesday, government shelling near a bread distribution center in the besieged Aleppo city killed six people.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country is determined to eliminate the “corridor of terror” along its border with Syria by clearing the Islamic State group and Syrian Kurdish fighters from the area.
Addressing a group of local administrators on Thursday, Erdogan reiterated that a secure no-fly zone which Turkey would like established in Syria would help end the flow of refugees to Turkey and beyond.
Turkey last month sent troops and tanks into Syria to help Syrian opposition rebels re-take IS strongholds near the Turkish border and curb the advance of Syrian Kurdish militia, which are affiliated with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish rebels.
Erdogan said some 30,000 people had returned to the Syrian town of Jarablus since it was freed from IS by the Turkish-backed rebels last month.
Syria’s military has released a video of its new advances in the contested Syrian city of Aleppo, showing destruction and ruins in a neighborhood that is hundreds of years old.
The video released Thursday shows damaged traditional buildings, with arched ceilings and stone walls, in the Farafra neighborhood that rests at the foot of the old citadel in Aleppo city. The video shows mounds of debris, twisted metal bars and broken ceilings with fighters walking past.
Syria’s government claimed it had repelled rebels from Farafra Tuesday, in the first such advance in old Aleppo. Since last week, the government has waged a major air campaign in Aleppo and threatened a wide ground offensive. The charity Doctors Without Borders says more than 270 civilians have been killed in the advance.
A top Russian diplomat says a United States’ threat to halt cooperation with Russia in the Syria conflict constitutes an “emotional breakdown” and says Russia is willing to support a 48-hour cease-fire around Aleppo.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday rejected Washington’s calls for a seven-day pause in hostilities, but said Russia is willing to support a 48-hour truce for humanitarian purposes.
Ryabkov’s comments follow U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning that the U.S. will stop coordinating with Moscow unless Russian and Syrian attacks on Aleppo end.
Ryabkov was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying of the U.S. that “a certain emotional breakdown occurred.”
He also reiterated Russia’s stance that a seven-day pause in the Aleppo offensive would give militant groups time to regroup.