No Agreement from ISSG Meeting, But Kerry and Lavrov Still Trying
Sept. 23, 2016 (EIRNS)—The International Syria Support Group met, yesterday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. While it did not result in an agreement, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came out of it saying they would keep trying. "We have exchanged ideas with the Russians and we plan to consult tomorrow" on those ideas, Kerry said after the meeting. "I am no less determined today than I was yesterday but I am even more frustrated."
"The good news is that Russia and the U.S. agreed to work intensely on a possible restoration of it," UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura told reporters. "It was a long, painful, difficult and disappointing meeting." "Meanwhile ... everyone is going back to the conflict. The next few hours, days maximum are crucial for making it or breaking it," de Mistura said.
De Mistura expressed his view that the US-Russian efforts have been sabotaged by other actors on both sides. "Both the two co-chairs have been de-facto undermined by others who have so far not wanted, or have tried to not deliver on the cessation of hostilities," de Mistura said. The major part of the ceasefire agreement that both sides sought to undermine were "detaching the armed opposition from al-Nusra and grounding the Syrian air force," de Mistura explained. Were those two steps implemented, "you would see a different Syria the day after, and we would have [humanitarian aid] convoys moving," he added.
Lavrov made the point that while the west is totally focused on the Syrian government’s alleged transgressions, the armed opposition groups also have a responsibility to abide by the agreement.
"Some of our partners tried to make the Syrian authorities taking unilateral steps. We insist, however, that the opposition must take steps as well,"
he said Lavrov also said that the
"the opposition needs taking steps on the maintenance of the ceasefire regime in a manner to prevent Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State from taking the advantage of the situation."
The Associated Press, late yesterday, published the text of one of the five documents from the cease fire agreement. The document says at the outset
"Delineation of territories controlled by ISIL, ’Jabhat Al-Nusra,’ and moderate armed opposition forces remains a key priority, as does separating moderate opposition forces from Nusra."
This is the key point repeatedly stressed by the Russians and the requirement that’s never been met. It calls for the simultaneous pullback of forces of both the government and opposition forces from the Castello Road—a demilitarization of the road, so that humanitarian relief supplies can be trucked through. The Russians have said that the Syrian army pulled back but the opposition forces never did, making it a unilateral withdrawal, which didn’t make any sense.
The document also directs that the opposition "Will not occupy areas that pro-regime forces vacate or set up positions in the demilitarized zone, other than the observation posts," and that "The opposition will make every effort to prevent Nusra forces from advancing into the demilitarized zone from opposition-held areas adjacent to it." According to the Russians, both of these provisions were violated by the opposition as well.