Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that discussions between Russia and the U.S. about ending the Syrian Civil War may falter; this Monday, the discussions were officially ended.
Discussions between the U.S. and Russia were hoped to be a viable way to end the devastating war that has gripped Syria since 2011. But after the failure of a ceasefire imposed early in September, renewed violence and mutual distrust caused discussions to fall apart.
On Monday, the U.S. government released a statement confirming that U.S.-Russia ceasefire talks had been suspended.
“The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the cessation of hostilities,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in the statement.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly.”
Russia’s foreign ministry said that the U.S. was trying to shift blame onto Moscow for the failure of the talks.
“Washington simply did not fulfil the key condition of the agreement to improve the humanitarian condition around Aleppo,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
“After failing to fulfil the agreements that they themselves worked out, they are trying to shift responsibility on to someone else”.
The news came as rebel-held eastern Aleppo’s largest hospital, M10, faced its third consecutive bombing, destroying its overground facilities completely and killing seven people. Its underground facilities largely remained intact, as hospitals in Aleppo have adapted to repeated aerial bombings.
At the same time, as U.N. diplomats said the U.N. Security Council would begin drafting a resolution to bring Russia and the U.S. to an immediate truce in Aleppo.
Expressing outrage over the “unacceptable and escalating” level of violence, the draft resolution calls on all parties to immediately implement a ceasefire, allow the movement of humanitarian aid and ground all warplanes over Aleppo. The measure would call on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to present options to the negotiating parties within five days of the resolution’s adoption to set up a monitoring mechanism of the ceasefire, to be enforced by the 23 countries backing Syria’s peace process.
“We, as a matter of principle, do not support such politicized steps aimed at using the Security Council to apply more pressure to Syria and Russia,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies in Moscow regarding the draft resolution.
On Tuesday, Russia was criticized by U.N. Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein for using incendiary weapons in its attacks on rebel-held areas. Incendiary weapons, which are used to burn their victims and start fires, have become more common in the Syrian conflict.
“The Syrian government and Russia should immediately stop attacking civilian areas with incendiary weapons,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, in August.
“These weapons inflict horrible injuries and excruciating pain, so all countries should condemn their use in civilian areas.”
It has also been suggested that Russia’s repeated bombings of hospitals and other civilian targets may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Al Hussein reiterated this and urged Russia to end its use of the veto to block action on Syria within the Security Council. He urged that the conflict in Syria be sent to the International Criminal Court for investigation of such potential crimes.
“I remind all State parties to Protocol III of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, including the Russian Federation, that they are strictly prohibited from using incendiary weapons in air strikes on heavily populated areas, and that the use of such weapons by ground forces is severely restricted,” Zeid said.