Syria aid blocked, violence spreads

The United States and Russia said today they wanted to extend the four-day-old ceasefire in Syria they have co-sponsored, although the agreement looked increasingly shaky, undermined by increasing violence and a failure to deliver aid.

The second attempt this year to halt the conflict has succeeded so far in curbing the fighting, but it remains a risky gamble in a war that has made a mockery of all previous peace efforts.

Washington and Moscow have agreed to share targeting information against jihadist fighters that are their common enemies, if the truce holds.

On the ground, the ceasefire has been reluctantly accepted by opposition fights who call it skewed in favour of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad but say they have no choice because of the desperate humanitarian condition of civilians in besieged areas. Al-Assad’s government, which holds its strongest position on the battlefield since the early days of the war, is also in no hurry to compromise.

Moscow, which holds the key to delivering the cooperation of its ally Assad, said it was ready to extend the truce by 72 hours and called on Washington to press opposition groups to abide by it.

Washington said it agreed that an extension was important, but also voiced alarm over the failure of aid to arrive.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who personally hammered out the agreement despite scepticism among some US administration colleagues, told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Washington would not start the agreed joint targeting of militants until aid arrives.


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