Russia Violates Ceasefire Deal With US and Jordan, As Fighting Escalates in SW Syria | World | Ammon News

Russia Violates Ceasefire Deal With US and Jordan, As Fighting Escalates in SW Syria

[6/26/2018 3:58:48 AM]

AMMONNEWS - Jordan has warned it cannot take in any more Syrians fleeing the civil war as the Assad regime, backed by Russia, escalates an offensive to recapture strategic territory near the border with Jordan, in apparent violation of a year-old ceasefire agreement between the U.S., Russia and Jordan.

With thousands displaced, the fighting in the so-called “de-escalation zone” has threatened to unleash a new wave of refugees into Jordan. Its foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said Sunday the kingdom was already struggling to host 1.3 million Syrian refugees and could not admit more.

King Abdullah met Monday with President Trump at the White House, where according to the Jordanian account they discussed “the importance of maintaining stability in the de-escalation zone in southwestern Syria, as well as respecting the [July 2017 trilateral ceasefire] agreement.”

Eleven days ago, amid signs that the Assad regime was preparing to launch an offensive in the ceasefire zone – which includes the Daraa and al-Quneitra provinces – State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert declared in a statement that the U.S. “will take firm and appropriate measures in response to Syrian government violations in this area” – repeating a warning she had made earlier, on May 25.

The June 14 statement also highlighted Russia’s responsibility in particular to pressure its ally to comply.

Instead, the Assad regime last week bombarded rebel-held towns in Daraa province, the area where the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad began with anti-government protests more than seven years ago, and one of the remaining few opposition strongholds in the country.

On Thursday, Nauert confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken to his Russian counterpart about the offensive, but declined to comment when asked about the earlier warning of a “firm and appropriate” U.S. response to the violations.

That was followed Friday by a statement by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, repeating calls for the ceasefire violations to stop, and saying that “Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations.”

But on Sunday the situation worsened as Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes in the area. (The Russian defense ministry said it had acted in support of the Syrian army in repelling an attack by terrorists.)

Defense Secretary James Mattis, asked by a reporter Sunday about the Russian bombing, replied cautiously.

“We’re looking very closely at what’s going on down there,” he said, calling what was happening in Syria “the most complex … security challenge anywhere.”

Mattis said he had been on the phone with several allies and partners in the region, and the matter was now in Pompeo’s hands, “to work this forward.”

Monday brought reports of new Syrian airstrikes and barrel bomb bombardments on rebel-held parts of Daraa city.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. delegate Jonathan Cohen accused the regime of launching “airstrikes, artillery, barrel bombs, and rocket attacks that are displacing tens of thousands of people” in the supposed ceasefire zone.

“And Russia itself has launched airstrikes in this zone over the weekend, in a clear violation of an agreement that was meant to save lives and promote a political solution in Syria.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin told the council that 40 percent of the territory in the ceasefire zone is controlled by ISIS and al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, and that the fight against terrorists “must be continued until they are completely exterminated.”

The area in question, dubbed the “triangle of death” earlier on during the civil war, is wedged between Jordan and Israel. While Jordan worries primarily about potentially destabilizing refugee flows, Israel’s concerns relate largely to the proximity to its Golan Heights border of Iran-linked forces.

The U.N. has warned that fighting in southern Syria was putting around 750,000 people at risk. Some 6.5 million people are already internally displaced by the drawn-out conflict.


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