UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the pressure is on Russia to stop ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from violating the ceasefire brokered by Jordan, Russia, and the United States.
Syrian regime forces were dropping barrel bombs on opposition-held areas in the southwest part of the country Friday, the first such assault bordering Jordan and the Golan Heights since the U.S. and Russia agreed on the “de-escalation zone” last year.
Abu Bakr al-Hassan, spokesman for the rebel group Jaish al-Thawra, which fights under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, told Reuters that he believes Assad is using the bombardment) to test two things: “the steadfastness of the FSA fighters and the degree of U.S. commitment to the de-escalation agreement in the south.”
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, speaking in the pro-Hezbollah newspaper al-Akhbar, warned Israel — which doesn’t want the Assad-aligned Iranian militias on their border — against intervening, saying the Jewish state has “no justification to carry out any action.”
In a statement today, Haley criticized Assad’s “intensified military operations” including “airstrikes, artillery, barrel bombs, and rocket attacks” which “unambiguously violates the southwest de-escalation arrangement and risks broadening the conflict and exacerbating civilian displacement.”
“Recent Syrian regime operations have already resulted in the loss of life and the displacement of more than 11,000 people, according to the United Nations,” she said. “Jordan, Russia, and the United States initiated the arrangement in the southwest last year, and until recently it has largely held. The United States negotiated the arrangement to de-escalate the conflict, save lives, create conditions for the safe and voluntary return of the displaced, and ultimately to move toward a peaceful political settlement in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254.”
“The southwest de-escalation area ceasefire reflects a commitment between President Trump and President Putin that must continue to be enforced. The United States remains determined to uphold our commitment and maintain this ceasefire.”
Haley stressed that the Syrian regime’s “violations of the ceasefire in southwest Syria need to stop.”
“We expect Russia to do its part to respect and enforce the ceasefire it helped establish, and to use the influence it has to stop the Syrian regime’s violations and any further destabilizing actions in the southwest and throughout Syria,” she said. “Russia will ultimately bear responsibility for any further escalations in Syria.”