US Criticizes Russia for “No Steps” To Provide Aid

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With the Assad regime continue to besieged towns across Syria, the US has criticized Russia for taking no “demonstrable steps” to ensure assistance, even though Moscow has been part of the international calls for aid.State Department spokesman Mark Toner noted on Wednesday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in Vienna in mid-May as part of the International Syrian Support Group’s declaration for assistance by June 1, including airdrops, if the Assad regime did not permit ground access:

We are obviously disappointed, to put it mildly, that…Russia has not taken any demonstrable steps to support the International Syria Support Group’s call for the delivery of humanitarian relief by air.

They were there in Vienna. And they committed to this deadline as well. So, you know, they can also step up and apply pressure. The airdrops into opposition-held areas, such as Darayya near Damascus, were never carried out. Before the deadline, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said that the Assad regime’s consent would be necessary, and other UN officials cited issues of security, logistics, and cost.

Earlier this week, the UN set a new target date of June 10 for the regime to agree to assistance on the ground. Pressed by reporters on Wednesday about why the airdrop option was even mentioned if it depended on the Assad regime’s consent, Toner initially noted that Damascus has said it may permit an aid delivery to Darayya — cut off since November 2012 — tomorrow: “I think we’re going to – we’re – although skeptical, we’re also going to wait and see what happens on Friday.”

He then made his call for Moscow to intervene.Russia has publicized its airdrops of aid into regime-held parts of Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria, but has never made a delivery to opposition-held territory.The Assad regime briefly allowed assistance into some areas after a now-defunct February 27 cessation of hostilities, but tightened its blockades in April and May. UN agencies assisted only 5% of Syrians in hard-to-reach areas.

Toner indicated, “Russia actually has air assets on the ground in Syria and ostensibly has the permission of the Syrian government to fly.

He assured that Moscow was “aware of our concerns” but declined to say whether Washington had talked to the Russians. about using its aircraft to deliver aid, saying he did not want to discuss specifics.

Assad “Sadly Mistaken” Over “Military Solution”

Asked about Bashar al-Assad’s pledge on Tuesday of “more bloodshed” until he had won back “every inch” of Syrian territory, Toner said the President was “sadly mistaken if he thinks there’s a military solution”:

His speech was vintage Assad. He’s been in this for five – over five years. He’s carried out horrific violence against his own people. So it’s not surprising that he’s still fully committed to what he believes is a military victory.

The spokesman denounced the latest Russian-regime bombings near medical facilities in opposition-held Aleppo, “[This] is unconscionable and should be strongly condemned….It continues to exacerbate the suffering of innocent civilians.”