U.S. Says Syria Ceasefire Not Dead, Others Skeptical

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that a Syria ceasefire was "not dead" even as other countries voiced skepticism that a U.S.-Russian deal to halt the violence could be revived. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

By John Irish and Lesley Wroughton

NEW YORK, Sept 20 – The United States said that a Syria ceasefire was “not dead” on Tuesday even as other countries voiced skepticism that a U.S.-Russian deal to halt the violence could be revived.

Foreign ministers from 20 nations emerged with differing views after a meeting to explore how to revive the ceasefire shattered by a strike on a humanitarian aid convoy on Monday, with one minister asking if matters were already hopeless.

The United Nations suspended all aid shipments into Syria after Monday’s deadly attack on a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies to a town near Aleppo, as a week-old U.S.-Russian sponsored ceasefire collapsed in renewed violence.

“The ceasefire is not dead,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters as he emerged from the gathering of the International Syria Support Group together with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The United States and Russia are on opposite sides of the 5-1/2-year-old civil war, with Moscow backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Washington supporting rebels seeking to topple him. Both countries share a commitment to defeat Daesh militants.

The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and “around 20 civilians” were killed in Monday’s strike, which a war monitoring group blamed on Russian or Syrian aircraft.

Russia, which is allied to Assad’s government, denied that either its air force or that of the Syrian armed forces was responsible. The Syrian army also denied blame.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier struck a decidedly pessimistic note about the chances of halting violence in the Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year, as he arrived for the meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

“We will have to reflect if there are ways back to negotiations on a truce, or if this has already become hopeless,” Steinmeier told reporters before the meeting in a New York luxury hotel.

Speaking afterwards, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also voiced doubts.

“It was a dramatic meeting. Is there still a chance this ceasefire will be effective? I can’t answer that question,” Ayrault told reporters. “Without (a) ceasefire it will be (a) spiral of war, but we have to be honest, the U.S.-Russian negotiation has reached its limits.”

United Nations special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said the group would meet again in New York on Friday.

Tuesday’s meeting included foreign ministers from 20 nations, lower officials from China, Iran and the United Arab Emirates, and representatives from the United Nations and the Arab League.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government of killing the most civilians during the civil war and said “powerful patrons that keep feeding the war machine also have blood on their hands.”

In his final address to the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Ban said the Syrian government “continues to barrel bomb neighborhoods and systematically torture thousands of detainees.”

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