Germany Presses Russia, Assad Regime to Reduce Attacks Around Aleppo

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for an "immediate reduction of violence" and has asked Russia, Assad Regime to reduce attacks around Aleppo. REUTERS/Michael Dalder

BERLIN, Feb 15 – Germany’s foreign minister pressed Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime on Monday to reduce attacks around Aleppo and called on all parties in the Syria conflict to show restraint.

Major powers agreed in Munich on Friday to a cessation of hostilities in Syria, but the deal does not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by any warring parties – the Damascus government and numerous rebel factions fighting it.

Russian bombing raids directed at rebel groups are helping the Syrian army to achieve what could be its biggest victory of the war in the battle for Aleppo, the country’s largest city and commercial centre before the conflict.

“As part of the Munich agreement, all sides are asked to contribute to an immediate reduction in violence, even before a ceasefire comes into effect,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

“This refers to military operations by Russia and the Syrian regime around Aleppo and recent attacks by PYD militias in North Syria,” Steinmeier said, referring to a Syrian Kurdish party and its associated militias.

The situation in Syria has been complicated by the activity of Kurdish-backed combatants in the area north of Aleppo near the Turkish border, which has drawn a swift military response from artillery in Turkey.

“Considering the tense situation, also Turkey must restrain itself,” Steinmeier said in the statement, issued on the fringe of a meeting with his European colleagues in Brussels.

There is little optimism that the deal reached in Munich will do much to end a war that has lasted five years and cost 250,000 lives.

The German government also said on Monday it did not believe that Russia and the West had entered a new Cold War and that in any case it was up to Moscow to prevent such a deterioration in relations.

“To people who talk about a Cold War or the danger of a Cold War, like Russian Prime Minister (Dmitry) Medvedev, all I can say is that this is definitely not the view of the German government,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert. “One must say that it is in his hands to prevent such a situation.”

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