Russia Warns of Rebel Threat to Syria Truce, Urges U.S. Pressure

  • Russian military cites 23 cease-fire violations by opposition
  • Lavrov concerned about lack of resolve to fight al-Qaeda wing

Russia warned that rebel violations of a day-old cease-fire in Syria were putting at risk joint efforts with the U.S. to ease the 5 1/2-year civil war, and urged the Obama administration to pressure opponents of President Bashar al-Assad into compliance.

Syrian troops, allied militias and civilian areas came under shelling 23 times since the truce took effect on Monday, mostly from areas where U.S.-backed rebels are based, Russian Lt. General Vladimir Savchenko said, according to the state-run Tass news service. Syrian government forces didn’t return fire and have ceased hostilities, except in areas where Islamic State and the al-Qaeda wing in Syria operate, Russian military officials said.

“We forcefully call on all those who have influence on the ‘refuseniks,’ especially the U.S. side, to deal at long last with their clients,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a website statement on Tuesday. “We cannot allow their predictably provocative acts to sabotage the possibility of a shift toward a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.”

Russia and the U.S. unveiled the latest effort to secure a cease-fire in Syria after talks in Geneva on Friday. The agreement aims to lead to coordinated efforts to fight terrorists in the Middle East country, prompt a resumption of peace talks to end the war, and provide humanitarian relief for the population. The conflict has killed at least 280,000 people and forced millions of others to flee, provoking the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II and helping to provide a launchpad for Islamic State’s campaign of global terror.

Terrorist List

Russia is concerned about potential efforts to take the al-Qaeda group off the terrorist list because it’s a powerful force against the Syrian military, even though U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised that won’t happen, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday. The U.S.-led coalition hasn’t been striking very actively against the wing, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.

The U.S. says it has committed to severing links between the rebels it supports and the al-Qaeda fighters, who have been acting together, particularly in the besieged northern city of Aleppo.

The rebel-held part of Aleppo and two villages outside the city came under shelling on Tuesday from government forces, without causing any casualties, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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