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Hussein Malla

"Everybody's patience with Russia has run out" - America abandons Syrian talks

The Russian response was just as stark.

THE UNITED STATES has abandoned its effort to convince Russia to impose a ceasefire on the Syrian regime as government forces pursued their relentless onslaught on eastern Aleppo.

Accusing Moscow of abetting Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad’s assault on civilian districts of the city, Washington said it had suspended bilateral talks with Russia on reviving a truce.

“Everybody’s patience with Russia has run out,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

A State Department official said US Secretary of State John Kerry is “laser-focused” on finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict through multilateral channels.

But his near-daily telephone calls and regular Geneva talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the crisis are over.

“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said, announcing an end to plans to set up a joint US-Russian military cell to target jihadists.

US Russia Syria United States Secretary of State John Kerry. Jason DeCrow Jason DeCrow

There was no word on what America’s “Plan B” might be despite rumors of tougher US sanctions and talk that Saudi Arabia and Qatar might step up arms shipments to anti-Assad rebels.

At the United Nations, Russia dismissed a French-drafted UN resolution aimed at imposing a ceasefire in Aleppo as having “no chance of working,” insisting the priority should be fighting jihadists in Syria.

“I’m not even sure many other council members would like to see a resolution on cessation of hostilities which has no chance of working,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said.

“If the only effect of that resolution is that the secretary-general will start thinking of some monitoring mechanism which is not going to work in the first place, then there is not much sense in having that resolution.”

Back and forth

Turkey Syria A Turkish army tank stationed near the Syrian border, in Suruc, Turkey. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The Russian and US militaries will keep a communications channel set up to ensure their forces do not get in each other’s way during “counterterrorism operations in Syria,” Kirby said.

But US personnel who had been sent to Geneva to set up a “Joint Implementation Center” with Russian officers are coming home.

“We regret this decision by Washington,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, Russian news agencies reported.

A truce was declared on September 12 under a deal Kerry and Lavrov signed in Geneva last month, but it collapsed within a week.

Washington accused Moscow of failing to rein in Assad’s government forces and of carrying out air strikes on civilian targets, including a UN aid convoy.

Moscow, meanwhile, says the United States failed to separate “moderate” anti-Assad rebels from jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.

According to Kirby, Russia was “unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.”

The US spokesman accused Moscow and Damascus of targeting hospitals and preventing aid from reaching desperate civilians.

The Russian response was just as stark.

“Washington simply did not fulfil the key condition of the agreement,” Zakharova said of Washington’s struggle to separate opposition fighters from the jihadist Fateh al-Sham Front.

“After failing to fulfill the agreements that they themselves worked out, they are trying to shift responsibility on to someone else.”

Meanwhile, the fighting continued.

© AFP 2016

Read: Reports that “prominent” Al-Qaeda leader killed in US airstrike

Read: “They’re not being listened to but they’re on the streets protesting as well”

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