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  US, Russia try to save truce

US, Russia try to save truce

Published : May 25, 2016, 6:31 am IST
Updated : May 25, 2016, 6:31 am IST

Toll in Monday bombings hits 161

Toll in Monday bombings hits 161

Washington and Moscow scrambled to salvage Syria’s shaky ceasefire on Tuesday as the country reeled from jihadist bombings that killed more than 160 people in President Bashar al-Assad’s coastal heartland.

A regime offensive outside the capital has severely strained an already fragile nationwide ceasefire between the regime and non-jihadist rebels intended to pave the way for peace talks to end the five-year conflict.

The latest attempts to salvage the truce come after at least 161 people were killed in car bombings and suicide attacks on Monday in the northwestern cities of Jableh and Tartous that were claimed by the ISIS group.

The US envoy for Syria late on Monday urged rebels to respect the February 27 ceasefire after they gave its brokers — Washington and Moscow — until Tuesday afternoon to stop the advance on rebel bastions outside Damascus.

“We recognise that the (ceasefire) is under severe stress, but believe that to abandon it now would be strategic error,” Michael Ratney said in a statement on Twitter.

“If the armed factions abandoned the ceasefire, Assad and his supporters would claim this gives them licence to attack all the Opposition forces without international objection.”

Twenty-nine rebel groups had called on Washington and Moscow to force Mr Assad’s regime “to completely and immediately halt their brutal offensive against Daraya and Eastern Ghouta” near Damascus.

Staunch regime ally Russia late on Monday called for a temporary local truce in Eastern Ghouta and Daraya — within the wider nationwide ceasefire — from Tuesday.

Satellite imagery appeared to show extensive damage to an air base in Syria used by Russian forces following an attack by ISIS, US intelligence company Stratfor said Tuesday. The claim was immediately denied by Russia’s defence ministry which said that the damage had been there for months.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said Moscow was ready to coordinate with a Kurdish-Arab alliance and the US-led coalition in an assault on the ISIS group’s Syrian bastion of Raqa.

“I say with all authority that we are ready for such coordination,” Mr Lavrov told journalists at a summit in Uzbekistan.

Location: Lebanon, Beirut