The Latest: Russia’s FM Dismisses New Syria Talks With Us

By on December 14, 2016


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Flickr Photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Flickr Photo)

BEIRUT—The Latest on the developments in Syria after the cease-fire deal to allow for the evacuation of rebels and tens of thousands of civilians still remaining in the rebel enclave (all times local):

11:50 a.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed new Syria talks with the United States as “pointless.”

Lavrov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies on Wednesday that Moscow has high hopes for Syria talks with Turkey and thinks they could be “more effective than many months of a pointless hangout we have had the United States.”

Lavrov has complained that every time they reach a deal, the United States “rolls back” on what has been agreed.

Russia and Turkey have brokered a cease-fire deal to evacuate Syrian rebels and civilians from their last holdout in eastern Aleppo that seems to be unravelling on Wednesday, according to both sides.

11:45 a.m.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is appealing on the Syrian government and Russia to do their utmost to spare civilians as they prepare to capture the last rebel holdouts in the besieged city of Aleppo.

Mogherini said in a statement on Wednesday that “the priority now, in these hours, is to protect civilians, guarantee them safe and monitored transit to a place of safety.”

She added that “this is particularly the responsibility of the Syrian government and its allies.” Mogherini also warned that “those who perpetrate war crimes will be held accountable.”

11:40 a.m.

Media reports say that buses, which were meant to evacuate rebels and tens of thousands of civilians from Syria’s eastern Aleppo, have left the crossing point on the edge of the opposition enclave and returned to their depots.

The buses’ departure could signal a major delay in the evacuations and even the collapse of the cease-fire deal.

The Lebanese channel al-Manar TV has broadcast footage showing Syrian government’s green-colored buses leaving the evacuation point without any passengers on Wednesday.

Al-Manar is the media arm of the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government forces in Syria.

Shelling and rocket fire also resumed Wednesday at the edges of the opposition’s one-square-mile enclave in Aleppo.

11:15 a.m.

A legal adviser to Syrian opposition factions says an evacuation deal for Aleppo is behind held up by Iranian fighters who have renewed shelling of the rebel part of the city.

Shiite volunteers from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan have been fighting in Syria in support of President Bashar Assad’s forces. Assad is also backed by Russia, his top ally in the war.

Osama Abu Zayd said despite Russian renewals of their commitment to the truce agreement, the Iranian field commander in Syria was obstructing the deal.

Aby Zayd told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “it is clear that the Russians can’t get Iran to abide by the deal.” He says Iranian militias and Hezbollah are shelling four Aleppo neighborhoods still held by the opposition.

Abu Zayd spoke on Wednesday from the outskirts of Aleppo. He says the Iranians are making new demands, including recovering the remains of Iranian fighters killed in Aleppo and the release of Iranian hostages held in Idlib.

11 a.m.

The Russian Defense Ministry says Syrian rebels in the besieged city of Aleppo have broken the latest cease-fire deal.

The ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that the rebels “resumed the hostilities” at dawn, trying to break through Syrian government positions to the north-west.

The ministry also says the rebels fired at a convoy that was due to depart in the early hours of the day from an eastern Aleppo neighborhood with the rebels who had agreed to be evacuated to the city of Idlib.

Syrian rebels and civilians were expected to pull out from their last holdout in Aleppo after the remaining rebel factions the previous day reached a cease-fire deal to evacuate from eastern Aleppo.

10:50 a.m.

Syrian activists say shelling has resumed in the remaining rebel part of eastern the city of Aleppo, despite a cease-fire deal to allow for the evacuations of the opposition fighters and tens of thousands of civilians.

Aleppo media activist Mahmoud Raslan says he was reporting for a Turkish agency when a rocket crashed beside him at around 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday. He shared an audio recording of the explosion with the Associated Press.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says an explosion was heard in the rebel-held Saif al-Dawleh district around the same time.

Pro-government forces have trapped thousands of civilians and gunmen in eastern Aleppo under a crushing bombardment over the past weeks as they pushed to clear the northern city of the opposition.

The implementation of the deal struck on Tuesday to evacuate civilians and rebels from the enclave, signaling a surrender by the opposition, was delayed on Wednesday morning.

8:50 a.m.

The Syrian rebel pullout from their last holdout in the city of Aleppo has been delayed.

The withdrawal was supposed to start early in the morning on Wednesday after the rebels the previous day reached a cease-fire deal to evacuate from eastern Aleppo in what is effectively a surrender – and a defining moment in Syria’s civil war.

The pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV broadcast footage of Syrian government buses idling at an agreed-on evacuation point. It’s unclear what has caused the delay.

The TV says it expects at least another couple of hours of delay. It says the buses are prepared to move 5,000 fighters and their families to Atareb, an opposition-held town in the northwestern Aleppo countryside.

The Syrian government or the opposition haven’t made any announcements about the delay.