US Secretary of State John Kerry has asked Russia to force the Syrian government into halting its airstrikes against terrorist groups, saying no-fly zones in certain areas of the country are the only way to revive hopes for an end to the Syrian conflict.
Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting about Syria on Wednesday, Kerry demanded that Moscow take responsibility for the recent attacks on a UN aid convoy and a field clinic in Syria’s Aleppo province before Syrian peace talks could be resumed.
“I believe that to restore credibility to the process we must move forward to try to immediately ground all aircraft flying in those key areas in order to de-escalate the situation and to give a chance for humanitarian assistance to flow unimpeded,” he said at the presence of his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“And if that happens there's a chance of giving credibility back to this process,” he said of an agreement with Lavrov in Geneva earlier this month to mediate a cessation of hostilities for humanitarian purposes.
Syria's army announced the end to the week-long ceasefire on Monday, blaming militants' lack of commitment for the failure of the truce.
Shortly after that, a UN aid convoy was targeted in an alleged airstrike in Aleppo’s Urm al-Kubra region.
Washington quickly held Moscow responsible for the attack that killed 12 aid workers and destroyed 18 of 31 Syrian Red Crescent trucks carrying UN-provided food.
In another strike on a field clinic in Aleppo on Tuesday, 4 medical workers were killed and a nurse was critically injured.
American officials blame Russia for the attacks, arguing that Moscow had agreed to make sure that the shaky ceasefire stays in place.
“In Geneva, Russia related that Assad was prepared to live by the cessation of hostilities and would accept the idea of not flying over agreed upon areas," Kerry said at the UNSC.
“But because of what's happened in the past few days my friends we have no choice but to do that sooner rather than later, move immediately to restore confidence and implement a genuine ceasefire now,” he added.
Moscow has firmly rejected the US accusation that Russian or Syrian planes carried out Monday or Tuesday’s attack.
During the UNSC session, Lavorv said there would be “no more unilateral pauses” on the part of Syrian forces as previous breaks had only allowed the Takfiri terrorists to re-arm and re-group.
The five-year conflict in Syria has left more than 400,000 people dead, according to UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.