In Multipolarity, Oct 6, 2016

Town of Al-Rai in northern Syria (Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

Town of Al-Rai in northern Syria (Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

Moscow has urged that “care” be taken of residents of the entire city of Aleppo, not only in its eastern part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. The statement comes as UN envoy for Syria warns East Aleppo is on the brink of being wiped out.

During a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is visiting Moscow, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to use “all means available” to help resolve the humanitarian deadlock in Aleppo.

The war-ravaged Syrian city is divided into the eastern part, held by militants, including terrorists from al-Nusra and the rest in control of pro-government forces. UN estimates that nearly 250,000 people in Aleppo are in dire need of humanitarian aid, the eastern districts in particular.

While talking about the plight of eastern Aleppo, Lavrov said that Moscow calls on the international community “to take care of residents of the entire city, not only of its eastern part.”

A recent advance by al-Nusra jihadists in southwest Aleppo left nearly a million people encircled and caused a “complicated humanitarian operation” which went largely unnoticed, Lavrov said. Moscow therefore “does not divide Aleppo into parts, controlled by government and militants.”

On Thursday, 1.5 tons of food supplies, such as sugar, flour, rice, tea and canned products were handed out to the civilians in the Arian neighborhood of Aleppo, Russia’s center for reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria reported.

To ensure that civilians who flee the terrorist-held areas of the city are provided with hot meal and essentials, special posts have been set up, the report explained.

Another three tons of medical supplies necessary to provide emergency care for the wounded were transferred to Zahi Azrak military hospital in Latakia province by Russian military medics, according to Colonel Igor Reutsky, the head of the Khmeimim Air Base medical service. The batch included blood substitutes, sterile clothing, syringes, drips and antibiotics, among over 70 types of items of medical aid.

UN envoy says ready to personally accompany al-Nusra out of Aleppo 

On Thursday, the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, warned that East Aleppo could be destroyed within two months if military action in the city continues. “The bottom line is in a maximum… two and a half months the city of eastern Aleppo at this rate may be totally destroyed,” he said.

The Syrian Air Force, backed by Russian jets, are targeting militants in East Aleppo after jihadists there repeatedly violated the cessation of hostilities, according to Moscow and Damascus. Mistura urged al-Nusra to leave the city, saying that he is willing to personally accompany them.

“If you [al-Nusra] did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you,” he said.

Lavrov welcomed the move, saying the UN envoy’s plan “at least deserves very careful consideration”. The Russian official also signaled his readiness to work on a UN resolution proposed by France, which calls for “improved” international monitoring of the situation in Syria and the reactivating of the truce in Aleppo.

During the press conference in Moscow, Ayrault noted that the Syrian issue should be resolved “not with threats.” Yet the French official claimed that the bombardment by Syrian government forces in East Aleppo is “aiding the process of radicalization” among some Syrians.

Meanwhile, in an interview to Denmark’s TV 2 channel, Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed to retake all of Aleppo. The Syrian leader, though, stressed that he would love to do so using “deals” and “amnesties,” allowing militants to give up their arms. He added that the plight in Syria is being worsened by the allegations that there is a real “moderate” opposition, instead calling it a “myth”.

“The moderate opposition is a myth. That’s why you cannot separate something that doesn’t exist from something that exists,” he said, as quoted by the Syrian state SANA agency.

Moscow has repeatedly criticized Washington for failing to deliver on its promise to persuade so-called “moderate” rebels to separate themselves from jihadists, as agreed in the Russia-U.S. brokered deal.

On Thursday, Lavrov also slammed the U.S. proposal for Russian troops to be the only ones giving escort to Aleppo humanitarian convoys along the Castello road. Instead Russia proposed a joint mission on the ground. “They [U.S.] said: ‘No, it’s too risky.’ That was our humanitarian exchange of views on how to resolve situation in Aleppo,” Lavrov said.

Moscow warns U.S. against striking Assad forces

Washington has recently suspended bilateral contacts with Russia over Syria, accusing Damascus and Moscow of targeting civilians in Aleppo. The Russian and Syrian governments insisted they have been conducting air strikes against terrorist hideouts in the eastern part of the city.

Leaked information in the western media suggested earlier this week the U.S. planned to take military action against the Syrian Army. However, during Thursday’s press briefing, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said such a move is “unlikely to accomplish the goals that many envision now in terms of reducing the violence” in Aleppo.

Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry warned Washington over striking against the positions of the Syrian government forces. Moscow said that such an action would “create a clear threat to Russian servicemen” who are operating on aid and monitoring missions on the ground.

The ministry also said that Russia currently hosts S-300 and S-400 air defense systems in Syria capable of delivering a “surprise” to all unidentified objects near Russian bases.

Related news and analysis:
New ‘group think’ for war with Syria/Russia, By Robert Parry, Consortium News, Oct 5, 2016

‘S-300, S-400 air defenses in place’: Russian Ministry of Defense warns U.S.-led coalition not to strike Syrian army,, Oct 6, 2016

Russia’s Defense Ministry has cautioned the U.S.-led coalition against carrying out airstrikes on Syrian army positions, adding in Syria there are numerous S-300 and S-400 air defense systems up and running.

Russia currently has S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems deployed to protect its troops stationed at the Tartus naval supply base and the Khmeimim airbase. The radius of the weapons reach may be “a surprise” to all unidentified flying objects, Russian Defense Miistry spokesperson General Igor Konashenkov said.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, any airstrike or missile hitting targets in territory controlled by the Syrian government would put Russian personnel in danger.

The defense official said that members of the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria are working “on the ground” delivering aid and communicating with a large number of communities in Syria. “Therefore, any missile or air strikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen.”

“Russian air defense system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to. And all the illusions of amateurs about the existence of ‘invisible’ jets will face a disappointing reality,”  Konashenkov added.

He also noted that Syria itself has S-200 as well as BUK systems, and their technical capabilities have been updated over the past year.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s statement came in response to what it called “leaks” in the Western media alleging that Washington is considering launching airstrikes against Syrian government forces.

“Of particular concern is information that the initiators of such provocations are representatives of the CIA and the Pentagon, who in September reported to the [US] President on the alleged controllability of ‘opposition’ fighters, but today are lobbying for ‘kinetic’ scenarios in Syria,” he said.

He cautioned Washington to conduct a “thorough calculation of the possible consequences of such plans.”

U.S.-led coalition jets bombed positions of the Syrian government forces on September 17, resulting in the deaths of 83 servicemen. Washington said the airstrike was a mistake, however Damascus claimed the incident was a “blatant aggression”.

The relocation of the S-300 system in order to protect Russian ships and the naval base in Syria was confirmed by Russian defense officials on October 4. Konashenkov assured that the S-300 is a “purely defensive system and poses no threat.” Russia also has S-400 missile defense systems at Khmeimim base that were placed there after Turkey downed a Russian SU-24 jet in November of 2015.


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