Date
21 July 2017
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have agreed on a new plan to the end the conflict in Syria. Photo:  WSJ
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have agreed on a new plan to the end the conflict in Syria. Photo: WSJ

Russia, US to coordinate new steps to end fighting in Syria

Russia and the US are taking new steps toward resolving the conflict in Syria, with government troops extending a limited ceasefire around the capital for another 48 hours.

The Syrian military said the ceasefire in the Damascus region was extended for another 48 hours, through Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing state news agency SANA.

But it does not include Aleppo, the largest city, which has seen heavy fighting amid a renewed offensive by the Assad regime and its allies against rebel groups.

US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that the broader, two-month-old cessation of hostilities “has fallen apart completely” in some areas.

Kerry, who spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also said the two countries agreed to boost staffing in Geneva to monitor the ceasefire’s enforcement, and that the US is working urgently to fully restore it, particularly in Aleppo.

“We’re trying to press this as fast as is possible, but I don’t want to make any promises that can’t be kept,” he told reporters.

“So we are trying in the next hours to see if it is possible to reach agreement that can, not just re-implement cessation, but create a path forward for the cessation to hold.”

Kerry said the US, Russia and other players — he also met in Geneva with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir — were discussing ways to create areas in Aleppo and elsewhere that could allow for the separation of warring factions.

“There are several proposals that are now going back to key players to sign off. We’re hopeful, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

The secretary spoke alongside the United Nations envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who said there “was no excuse” not to reinvigorate the ceasefire.

He also noted somberly that the US and Russia need to enforce the mechanisms they’re discussing.

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RA

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