February 11 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lashed out on Wednesday at the US over its approach to Syria, joining Turkey in criticism of Washington. Fabius, who is resigning to become head of the Constitutional Court, denounced the “ambiguities” of the US-led coalition, “in particular [of] the principal pilot”: One doesn’t get the sense that there is a very strong commitment. There are words, but actions are another matter, and obviously the Iranians and Russians feel that.

He specifically challenged the political will of President Obama: “I don’t think that the end of Mr Obama’s mandate will push him to act as much as his minister [Secretary of State John Kerry] declares.”

Fabius’ statement adds to the pressure on the US as the 20-nation International Syria Support Group gathers in Munich on Thursday to discuss stalled “peace talks” and the latest crisis of displaced civilians, spurred by Russian bombing and regime-Iranian-Hezbollah ground assaults in northwest and southern Syria.

Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have stepped up their criticism of Washington in the past week, focusing on the US shift of support from Syrian rebels to Kurdish-led forces.

Ankara believes that the Syrian Kurdistan Democratic Union Party (PYD) — whose YPG militia has advanced across northern Syria against the Islamic State, and is now fighting rebels for territory — is dominated by the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK, which is officially listed as a “terrorist organization” by the US.

Erdoğan asked again on Wednesday, “Are you on our side or the side of the terrorist PYD and PKK organizations?”

The Turkish Government was unsettled by Washington’s show of support for the PYD on Monday, refusing to declare it as “terrorist”. The Foreign Ministry summoned the US Ambassador, while leading officials warned against a further advance by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

Without directly confronting the US, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond put out another signal yesterday, as he met the coordinator of the opposition-rebel High Negotiations Committee, Riad Hijab.

Hammond urged a “genuine commitment” to peace talks and a political transition with President Assad leaving power. He said of Russian bombing and the regime-Iranian-Hezbollah ground offensives:

Russia and the regime are deliberately targeting the opposition and thus strengthening Daesh. Their actions against civilian populations and infrastructure are in breach of international humanitarian law.


While Turkey’s response to the US rests on its concerns about Syrian and Turkish Kurdish groups, a wider challenge to Washington has been galvanized by the threat to rebels and hundreds of thousands of civilians by the regime-Iranian-Hezbollah offensive, enabled by intense Russian bombing, north of Aleppo city.

Attacks in the last two weeks have driven up to 70,000 people from their homes and towards the closed Turkish border. If the offensive cuts off supply routes from the border to Aleppo, an estimated 300,000 people in opposition-held areas of the divided city are at risk from bombardment and siege.

The Russian airstrikes and ground assaults also undermined the Geneva talks seeking a political resolution, with discussions suspended last week after less than five days. The opposition-rebel bloc has said that it will not enter “proximity talks” with a regime delegation without an assurance of ceasefires and access to aid for besieged areas.

However, the US has rejected the conditions, joining Russia in saying that they should be part of the negotiations. Moreover, Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly blamed the opposition, rather than Russia and the Assad regime, for the suspension of the discussions. He has also told critics that they can expect another three months of Russian airstrikes to “decimate” the Syrian opposition.

Formally, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has scheduled the resumption of talks with the regime and opposition-rebel bloc for February 25; however, the High Negotiations Committee has maintained its insistence that bombing must stop and aid must be assured for besieged areas.


Meanwhile, there are signs that Saudi Arabia may also push aside US objections and step up military assistance to the threatened Syrian rebels, after Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made an unscheduled visit to Kerry last weekend in Washington to set out Riyadh’s position. T

The trip followed a Saudi declaration that it would send ground troops into Syria if desired by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. The statement pointed more to a political maneuver, with the Saudis indicating that they might renew military backing of the opposition-rebel bloc.

In recent months, the Saudis have been cautious about supplying the rebels, amid the US shift to the Kurdish-led forces. However, in recent days, weaponry including Grad rockets and anti-tank missiles have again been seen in use against the regime-Hezbollah-Iranian offensives.