BEIRUT/PARIS/DUBAI: France and Iran voiced concern over escalating violence in Syria on Tuesday, echoing warnings from the United States and Russia as fighting near the city of Aleppo put more pressure on a fragile truce agreement.
The already widely violated “cessation of hostilities” agreement brokered by Russia and the United States has been strained to breaking point by an upsurge in fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels near Aleppo.
The escalation underlines the already bleak outlook for peace talks set to reconvene this week in Geneva. The United Nations says the talks will resume on Wednesday. The government delegation has said it is ready to join the talks from Friday.
With President Bashar al-Assad buoyed by Russian and Iranian military support, the Damascus government is due to hold parliamentary elections on Wednesday, a vote seen by Assad’s opponents as illegitimate and provocative.
Iran said an increase in ceasefire violations could harm the political process a day after Russia said it had asked the United States to stop a mobilisation of militants near Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city until the conflict erupted in 2011.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, speaking after a meeting with U.N. Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura in Tehran, blamed the “increasing activities of armed groups” for the violations.
France, which backs the opposition, also expressed concern, but blamed the other side. “It warns that the impact of the regime and its allies’ offensives around Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta are a threat to the cessation of hostilities,” government spokesman Romain Nadal said. The Eastern Ghouta is an opposition-held area near Damascus.
Syria’s civil war has killed more than 250,000 people, created the world’s worst refugee crisis, allowed for the rise of Daesh and drawn in regional and international powers. The intervention of Russia swung the war in Assad’s favour.
WASHINGTON “VERY, VERY CONCERNED”
The United States, which also backs rebels fighting Assad, on Monday said it was “very, very concerned” about increased violence and blamed the Syrian government for the vast majority of truce violations.
Both the government and a large number of rebel groups had pledged to respect the cessation of hostilities agreed in February with the aim of allowing a resumption of diplomacy towards ending the five-year-long war. Militant groups including the Nusra Front and Daesh were not part of the deal.
A senior official close to the Syrian government said the truce had effectively collapsed.
“On the ground the truce does not exist,” said the official, who is not Syrian and declined to be named because he was giving a personal assessment. “The level of tension in Syria will increase in the coming months.”
The eruption of fighting on the front lines south of Aleppo marks the most serious challenge yet to the truce.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organisation that tracks the war, said dozens of government fighters had been killed in a big offensive to take the town of Telat al-Eis near the Aleppo-Damascus highway on Tuesday.
Courtesy : TheNews