The Russian armed forces general staff requested an urgent meeting with US officials to agree on a mechanism for monitoring the current ceasefire in Syria, noting that Russia will act alone if US does not comply.
“Further delays with implementing of the agreed rules of reaction to violations of the ceasefire regime in Syria is unacceptable,” said the Russian defence ministry in a statement.
Russian state news agency TASS reported that the head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Sergei Rudskoi, said on Monday that Moscow is ready to unilaterally use military force starting 22 March, against armed groups that are systematically violating Syria’s ceasefire, if the US does not reply.
“We emphasise that military force will be used only after we receive credible evidence of systematic violations by armed groups of the commitments made within the framework of the Joint US-Russian statement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria as of 22 February 2016,” said Rudskoi. “Military force will not be used against the groups, observing the ceasefire regime, as well as against the civilian population and civilian facilities.”
A US-Russian backed ceasefire came into effect on 22 February, while UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria began 14 March between representatives from both the opposition and government.
Ongoing efforts in the Syria peace talks, taking place in Geneva, have seen the subject of Bashar Al-Assad’s fate pushed onto the table once again.
Despite the government negotiators’ efforts to push it to the side, the topic has become unavoidable as it addresses the core of what the outcome of a post-civil war government in Syria will look like.
UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura refused to avoid discussing Al-Assad’s fate, describing the transitional government as the main issue on the table. The conflict over Al-Assad’s fate was the main reason behind the failure of UN-sponsored peace talks in 2012 and 2014.
After completing a week of negotiations, de Mistura praised the ideas suggested by the opposition, and criticised the efforts of the regime’s diplomats. The opposition insists, along with the US, that any peace agreement should include the departure of Al-Assad.
The Syrian government and Russia, however, refuse to consider Al-Assad’s removal from office.
The opposition also refuses any attempt by the regime to postpone the next round of Geneva talks to be held on 13 April due to the parliamentary elections, urging Russia to put pressure on the regime to take the negotiations seriously.
Last month, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad called for a parliamentary elections, which take place every four years.
Russia’s support in Syria’s offensive against “Islamic State” (IS), as well as opposition forces, has bolstered Al-Assad’s position in recent months, gaining him new ground in a war that recently passed the five-year mark.
Russia recently announced that it would pull Russian troops out of Syria. However, Russian airstrikes are still ongoing.
US secretary of state John Kerry will meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin this week in Moscow for talks, in which Syria is expected to be the main focus.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Alloush, the chief negotiator for the Syrian opposition, told the press that the delegation will decide at the end of the week whether they will continue the peace negotiations.
Alloush said little progress has been made and the Syrian government has been unwilling to fully engage. He said the points raised by the government’s negotiators fail to address the transitional government.