World leaders from the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) met in Munich, Germany from February 11-12th and agreed to allow humanitarian access in besieged areas of war-torn Syria and to impose a task force during the next week under the auspices of the UN and chaired by Russia and the United States that is aimed at achieving a cease fire and ending hostilities in the troubled country.
During the meeting, ISSG members unanimously committed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 adopted on December 18, 2015 that supports a Syrian led and Syrian owned political transition based on the Geneva Communique in its entirety, presses for the end of indiscriminate use of weapons and a nationwide ceasefire, and supports the facilitation of humanitarian access in besieged areas in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explained yesterday during a press conference in Munich that there’s no way to institute a ceasefire effectively or facilitate humanitarian assistance without all of the ISSG members working with Russia to guarantee that the access is provided and that the cessation of hostilities actually takes hold.
Kerry admitted that the stakes are high in Syria and said that the longer the 5 year war is prolonged, the more likely the region will become a breeding ground for terrorist group such as ISIS, also referred to as Daesh.
“The longer this conflict persists the better it is for extremists, the more people like Daesh profit. And they have found a safe haven in war-torn Syria and we are determined that we’re going to continue and upgrade and increase our efforts to degrade and destroy Daesh as fast as possible” Kerry said.
Kerry expressed optimism about the progress that was made during the 2 day conference in Munich that is intended to help ensure a ceasefire and a reduction in violence.
“I am hopeful that the progress we’re making here will be real, that we’ll be able to see this reduction in violence – which everybody accepted as a fundamental organizing principle of this effort – and that within this week we can get the modalities secured for the cooperation necessary to be able to produce a ceasefire” Kerry added.
During the past month, Syrian government forces, covered by Russian air attacks from above, have made advances against rebel groups in Aleppo, the largest city in Syria.
The U.K. based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 500 people, including 89 civilians have been killed in Aleppo since a Russian backed offense has occurred this past month in the region.
Besides seeking greater control over Aleppo, Syrian forces are positioning to take over Raqqa province which is overrun by ISIS in a move that may be intended to control the area before Saudi Arabia sends troops into the area.
Since September, Russia has stepped up its military support of Syria’s government in Damascus and stands accused of targeting rebel groups in Syria, some of them U.S. backed, instead of focusing its attacks on ISIS forces.
“It was unbearable how the people in Aleppo were covered with a carpet of bombs while, at the same time, trust was supposed to be built in the Vienna talks” said Ursala von der Leyen, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense at the Munich Security Conference.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov admitted during Friday’s press conference that over the past several months, heated discussions emerged over targets in Syria and how to deal with territories that are taken away from Deash.
“As you probably know, during all these months we had quite an emotional discussion on who is targeting right targets – who is striking at right targets, who is striking at wrong targets. We have been proposing on many occasions to deal with this issue of – professionally now, having the agreement that the task force will determine areas taken by Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusrah. We have made a very important practical step forward in this direction” Lavrov said.
He said the group’s document confirms the need to implement UN Security Council resolutions which requires stopping the flow of terrorists and fighters from foreign states, to stop illicit trade in oil and other smuggling.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference earlier today, Secretary of State John Kerry said there is still work to do with Russia over the development of a new task force modality in Syria and emphasized that it is critical for Russia to changes its targets.
“Now, there is a lot of work to do before this effective cessation can commence, and to that end, we have established another task force with Sergey Lavrov – who is here, the foreign minister of Russia – and I will chair together with other ISSG members, and we will work on the modality of how we deal with this. And to date, the vast majority, in our opinion, of Russia’s attacks have been against legitimate opposition groups. And to adhere to the agreement that has been made we think it is critical that Russia’s targeting change. And the entire ISSG, including Russia, has agreed to work to make that happen” Kerry said.
Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Security Council Resolution has demanded that “all parties immediately cease any attacks against civilians” and pointed out that it has not happened to date.
“Free-fall bombs are being used, which are not precise. We all know civilians are being killed. So we hope this week can be a week of change” Kerry said.
Lavrov spoke about the “liberation” of Aleppo from rebel groups which he referred to as illegal armed groups and said that attacking those who have taken you land is a necessary thing.
“As for Aleppo, John said that he is worried by recent aggressive actions of the government. Well, if liberation of the city that has been taken by illegal armed groups can be qualified as aggression, then, well, yeah, probably” Lavrov said on Friday.
“But to attack those who have taken your land is necessary – is a necessary thing. First of all, this has been done by Jabhat al-Nusrah, and also the western suburbs of Aleppo are still being controlled together with Jabhat al-Nusrah by Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham” Lavrov continued.
During Saturday’s Munich Security Conference, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denied that Russia was bombing civilians and called for closer military communication.
“Nobody has any proof that we have been bombing civilian targets there, even though they keep on talking about it, about wrong targets and so forth. They do not share information” Medvedev answered in response to a question from a British reporter.
“I have just said this from the stand – the military must keep in constant contact. They should call each other a dozen times a day. Otherwise there will always be skirmishes and conflicts. And this is our mission. We are ready for such cooperation” Medvedev said.
Saudi Arabia Sending Jets And Troops To Turkey
Despite some criticism and ridicule from Iran’s General of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards by Maj. Gen. Ali Jafari, over a recent announcement by Saudi Arabia about sending troops into Syria to fight ISIS forces, Saudi Arabia is set to send troops to Turkey’s Incirlik military base in advance of possible ground invasion in Syria.
According to Turkey’s Yeni Safak newspaper reported on Saturday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Saudi Arabia is to send jets and military personnel Turkey’s Incirlik military base over a mutual agreement but admitted that the number of jets and soldiers is still undetermined.
Cavusoglu explained that Turkey remains critical of a statement from the United States that states it doesn’t recognize the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a terror organization which Turkey does and said they should decide whether they are on Turkey’s or the PYD’s side.