The Latest: Russia's Lavrov discusses Syria with Kerry

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 20, 2016 10:58 AM
The Latest: Russia's Lavrov discusses Syria with Kerry

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):

6 p.m.

Russia says Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have held a telephone discussion on the Syrian conflict.

A Foreign Ministry statement Saturday said the two "pointed to the progress made in humanitarian aid deliveries to the blocked areas on Syrian territory."

Lavrov also "drew attention to the inadmissibility of Turkey's provocative actions violating Syria's territorial integrity."

Russia has criticized Turkey's cross-border shelling of a Kurdish militia but was rebuffed in its attempt Friday to introduce a U.N. resolution against such artillery fire.

___

5:15 p.m.

A Syrian official says he "regrets" that Western countries rejected a U.N. draft resolution proposed by Russia aimed at halting cross-border shelling and preventing a foreign ground intervention in the Syrian conflict.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad says "we are not surprised" by the decision taken by Western countries "that have conspired against Syria and submitted all kinds of support for terrorists."

He spoke Saturday in comments carried by the Syrian news agency SANA.

The draft resolution was put forth by Russia Friday at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council. It was turned down by France.

It was clearly aimed at Turkey, a leading backer of Syrian rebels which has threatened ground action and is continuing cross-border artillery shelling against a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria.

___

2:45 p.m.

The main Syrian opposition group says it is ready "in principle" to implement a temporary truce in Syria

The Saudi-backed group known as the High Negotiations Committee says however that the Syrian government must lift blockades off rebel-held communities in Syria and release detainees from prisons.

The statement followed a meeting between opposition groups held in Riyadh Saturday, after a deadline set by world powers for a temporary pause in fighting passed.

It says any truce must include all parties to the conflict including Russia and Iran, key supporters of President Bashar Assad's government.

Russia has said that it would continue to strike those it considers "terrorists" in Syria even during a cease-fire.

___

2:30 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says he favors equipping Syrian rebels with surface-to-air missiles, arguing it would shift the balance of power.

Saudi Arabia is a key backer of rebels against President Bashar Assad. Foreign Minister Adel el-Jubeir was quoted as telling German weekly Der Spiegel in an interview published Saturday: "We believe that introducing surface-to-air missiles in Syria is going to change the balance of power on the ground."

He said the moderate opposition could "neutralize" helicopters and aircraft that have been bombing them.

Al-Jubeir added that the move must be studied carefully, "because you don't want such weapons to fall into the wrong hands."

He was quoted as saying: "This is a decision that the international coalition will have to make. This is not Saudi Arabia's decision."

___

2:15 p.m.

The main Saudi-backed Syrian opposition coalition is harshly criticizing both the Syrian government and Russia for the failure of an agreed-upon temporary cessation of hostilities to take hold on the ground.

A statement Saturday from the High Negotiations Committee accused Damascus and Moscow of blatantly ignoring the temporary cessation of hostilities agreed upon last week during meetings in Munich, Germany.

The statement from HNC spokesman Salem Al Meslet accused Syria and Russia of showing "disdain for the international community and disregard for the lives of Syrians."

Al Meslet pronounced the Munich agreement a failure and called for "a new approach" that holds Damascus and Moscow accountable for their "continued murder and humanitarian crimes while falsely cloaked in the language of peace."

___

1:30 p.m.

Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond discussed the ongoing crisis in Syria and progress being made in Geneva by two U.N. task forces — one working on a cease-fire and another focused on providing humanitarian aid to besieged areas.

Kerry had breakfast with Hammond on Saturday morning in London en route to Amman, Jordan where he was to have a weekend meeting with King Abdullah II to further discuss the Syrian crisis and other issues. State Department spokesman John Kirby says Kerry thanked Britain for its help in the fight against the Islamic State militants.

A Feb. 12 meeting in Munich of 18 key nations supporting opposing sides in Syria's five-year civil war agreed to a cessation of hostilities within a week, but that didn't happen because of intense fighting. U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura had hoped for a resumption of talks on Feb. 25, but de Mistura announced on Friday that talks would not resume by that date.

Jordan is one of a handful of Arab states that have taken part in a U.S.-led air campaign against IS, which last year seized swaths of Iraq and Syria. Jordan hosts about 635,000 Syrians registered with the U.N. refugee agency, out of more than 4.7 million Syrian war refugees in regional host countries.

___

12:30 p.m.

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Kremlin is disappointed by the rejection of a proposed United Nations resolution aimed at stopping cross-border shelling and foreign ground intervention in the Syrian conflict.

The draft resolution was put forth by Russia on Friday at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. It was turned down by France.

It did not name Turkey but it was clearly aimed at the Turkish government, which has threatened ground action and is continuing a cross-border artillery shelling campaign against U.S.-backed Kurdish militia positions in Syria.

On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "Russia views such trans-border strikes by Turkish artillery and artillery strikes at Syrian territory as unacceptable," according to the state news agency Tass.

"We can only express our regret that this draft resolution was not supported," he said.

___

11 a.m.

Syria's government says Turkish artillery shelling inside Syria is an "outrageous violation" of international law.

In a statement published by the state-run SANA news agency Saturday, it accused Turkey of committing "crimes" against the Syrians by firing artillery shells at areas in the northern province of Aleppo.

It added that a number of civilians were injured by the artillery fire that targeted Tel Rifaat, Malikiyeh and other towns.

Turkey has in the past week kept up a cross-border artillery shelling campaign against U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia positions in Syria. It has also threatened ground action, saying it was exercising its right to self-defense and responding to fire from Syrian soil.

The main Kurdish group in Syria has denied firing at Turkey from Syria.