Washington: The US condemned Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s statement that his goal is a final victory over the city of Aleppo and urged Russia to exert its influence over Damascus to ensure a cessation of hostilities continues in the city.
Just a day after the start of the temporary truce, Assad sent a telegram to Russian president Vladimir Putin saying his army would not accept anything less than ‘attaining final victory’ and ‘crushing the aggression’ by rebels in Aleppo.
The telegram, reported by state media, brought into question whether Assad had signed on to a cessation of hostilities agreement brokered by Russia and the US a day earlier.
“We call on Russia to urgently address this totally unacceptable statement," state department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing on Thursday. “It’s clearly an effort by Assad to push his agenda, but it is incumbent on Russia to assert influence on that regime to maintain the cessation of hostilities."
There appeared to be confusion over the timeline for the cessation of hostilities, with the Syrian army saying it would abide by a ‘regime of calm’ in the city for 48 hours and the state department emphasizing the truce was open-ended.
“We stand by our statement that the (cessation of hostilities) went into effect 4 May at 00:01 Damascus time. As to why the regime said otherwise, you’ll have to ask them. There may have been coordination issues on the ground. I don’t have any other clear explanation than that," Toner said.
He added: “The most important issue is that they comply and it appears that, at least today, there is a decrease in the level of violence."
Toner noted that a cessation of hostilities in eastern Goutha near Damascus and Latakia had initially covered a 48-hour period but was later extended.
“Our intent is to make it as open-ended as possible but we have to start somewhere. We want to see it take hold first and then we will look at extending it," he added. Reuters