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Russian Defense Ministry says US, Syrian opposition fail to fulfil Geneva deal

The US and the Syrian opposition groups backed by Washington have not met any commitments under the Geneva deal on Syria, senior Russian military official Sergey Rudskoy told reporters on Monday.

"The United States and the groups of the so-called healthy opposition controlled by it have not met any of the commitments undertaken as part of the Geneva agreements. No separation of the moderate opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra has taken place," said Rudskoy, who heads the main operations department of Russia's General Staff.

"Moreover, we see not separation but the merge of units of moderate opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra and their preparation for joint offensive," Rudskoy said.

Alexander Zorin, a Russian defense ministry's envoy to the Geneva-based task forces on ceasefire and humanitarian issues, said since September 12 Russia's experts have handed over to US counterparts 16 requests for providing info.

"We have to state a very low activity of the American colleagues on responding to our well-founded concerns," he said.

He reminded that the main condition of the ceasefire was separating the moderate opposition from the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group, which is outlawed in Russia. "Unfortunately, the American colleagues have not made any real steps in this direction so far," Zorin said.

During the meetings in Geneva on Sunday and Monday, the US experts tried to convince Russia that the task of separating terrorists from the opposition was very challenging and they were working hard on solving it. "Still, no practical results of this activity have been provided so far," he added.

Unilateral ceasefire observance is senseless

Rudskoy went on to say that the Russian Defense Ministry believes unilateral observance of ceasefire by Syrian government forces is senseless amidst ongoing shelling by militants.

"Taking into account the fact that militants are not observing the regime of cessation of hostilities, we believe its unilateral observance by Syrian government forces is senseless," he said.

Rudskoy said US inability to influence the opposition is the reason behind continued shelling of government positions, and continued deaths of Syrian military and civilians.

No air strikes delivered at areas agreed in Geneva

According to Rudskoy, no air strikes have been delivered by either Russian or Syrian warplanes over the week at areas that were agreed under the Geneva deals.

He stressed that in conformity with the agreements Syrian government troops "have completely stopped fire at armed groups in territories covered by the agreement."

"Bearing it in mind, I think it necessary to answer the ungrounded accusations of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry concerning the so-called indiscriminate bombing of the Syrian air force. No air strikes have been delivered in the past week by either Russian or Syrian air groups at areas agreed under the Geneva deals. No proof to that has been given to us," he said.

Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry alleged that Syrian government forces were attacking moderate opposition-controlled areas under the disguise of delivering strikes at positions of Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (previously known as Jabhat al-Nusra).

'Moderate opposition', Jabhat al-Nusra prepare joint offensive

Rudskoy stressed the "moderate opposition" and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group are preparing a joint offensive in Syria.

"The moderate opposition hasn't separated itself from Jabhat al-Nusra. Moreover, rather than separation, we see an intermingling between the moderate opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra forces, and their preparations for joint offensives," he said.

According to Rudskoy, the US has been failing to provide the Russian military with precise data on the deployment of the US-controlled armed opposition groups. At the same time, as he said, the data handed over to Russia on September 13, did not meet the bilateral agreement, as there was only a general list of the militant groups that had agreed to join the ceasefire.

"There are no coordinates of the areas where these groups operate, no data on the militants' numbers and no contact information of the armed groups' leaders," Rudskoy explained.

Humanitarian deliveries

According to Rudskoy, the Syrian army has pulled back from the road Castello near Aleppo twice.

"The Syrian army has pulled back its heavy weapons, vehicles and personnel from that road to the agreed lines twice. However, due to provocations and the opposition's reluctance to reciprocate this clause of the agreements has been disrupted," Rudskoy said.

Problems with humanitarian deliveries to the eastern part of Syrian Aleppo come because US-controlled armed groups have failed to pull back their forces and arms from Castello road, have not established a checkpoint at Castello road and have not passed it to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

"The issue of ensuring security of humanitarian convoys heading to the eastern part of Aleppo remains unresolved," he said.

He noted that the Russian side, for its part, has set up in the west of Castello road a check point for humanitarian aid and civil transport means and handed it over to the Syrian Red Crescent. Besides, militia units ensure security there, he said.

According to earlier reports, the Syrian army and the opposition forces are obliged to withdraw from the Castello road, expected to be used to deliver humanitarian supplies to Aleppo. A demilitarized zone is to be created along that road. The government army declared its pullback on September 16. Later in the day, though, it had to return to the original positions as militants continued bombardments.

US has no leverage over Syrian opposition

According to Rudskoy, the US has no efficient leverage over the moderate Syrian opposition and is unaware of the real situation in Syria.

"A bombing and striking attack by aircraft of the international coalition on positions of Syrian troops in the area of Deir ez-Zor the day before yesterday and an offensive of Islamic State armed gangs that was launched immediately after that attack testifies to this," he said.

63 civilians died

Rudskoy reported that truce in Syria has been violated 302 times since September 12, adding that 63 civilians were killed and 252 others injured.

"Over the past 24 hours alone there have been 53 bombardments. In all, since the truce was declared it has been violated 302 times. During this period 63 civilians were killed and 252 others injured. The Syrian army lost 153 men," he said.

The cessation of hostilities regime came into effect from 19:00 Moscow time on September 12. On September 14, the ceasefire was extended for 48 hours more. However, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, the ceasefire regime has been violated more than once over these days.

The chief of Russia's center for the reconciliation of warring parties in Syria, Vladimir Savchenko, said that 26 of the 53 violations of truce occurred in Aleppo.

"In the city of Aleppo alone militants have staged 24 bombardments of the residential areas of Ramusi and Al-Zagra, the areas of the cement mill, the trading center Castello and the area of the Castello road," Rudskoi said. As a result, ten civilians, including two children were killed and 30 others injured," Savchenko said.

There have been more truce violations in Damascus Province (eight cases),Homs (seven, Hama and Latakia (five). Two incidents have occurred in Daraah province.

UN preparing humanitarian convoys

Savchenko went on to say that the UN is preparing humanitarian convoys to be dispatched to seven settlements in the Syrian province of Damascus and Idlib.

"Humanitarian convoys are prepared to be sent to the settlements of Muaddamia, Douma, Zamalka, Madaya and Zabadani in the province of Damascus, and Fua and Kafer Haya in the province of Idlib," he said.

Apart from that, United Nations humanitarian cargoes are being delivered to Tel Bisa and Al-Vayer in the Homs province and Big Orem in the province of Aleppo.

"The Syrian government has issued all necessary permissions and referred them to U.N. representatives," Savchenko said.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 19Sep16]

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