The Suspension of U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Syria

The U.S. said Russia has failed to live up to its agreement to allow aid workers into Aleppo.

A boy walks amid damaged buildings in the rebel held area of al-Kalaseh neighbourhood of Aleppo.
Abdalrhman Ismail / Reuters

NEWS BRIEF The U.S. State Department said Monday the U.S. was suspending bilateral talks with Russia over the situation in Aleppo, Syria.

Here’s more from its statement:

This is not a decision that was taken lightly. The United States spared no effort in negotiating and attempting to implement an arrangement with Russia aimed at reducing violence, providing unhindered humanitarian access, and degrading terrorist organizations operating in Syria, including Daesh and al Qaeda in Syria.

Unfortunately, Russia failed to live up to its own commitments - including its obligations under international humanitarian law and UNSCR 2254 - and was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to the arrangements to which Moscow agreed.

Indeed, the statement said, Russia and Syria had intensified their attacks on rebel-held parts of Aleppo, were preventing aid from reaching civilians, and had targeted a humanitarian convoy last month, soon after the weeklong cease-fire—brought about following U.S.-Russian negotiations—broke down. The development comes just a week after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to cut off talks with Russia after it was accused of bombing the convoy.

Since the cease-fire ended September 19, things have drastically devolved. The U.S. had bombed Syrian government forces, which it called an accident, having mistaken them for Islamic State militants. The U.S. then accused Syrian and Russian forces of bombing the convoy, and last week it accused both countries of using bunker-buster bombs to blow up civilian shelters dug beneath the ground. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said the bombings destroyed three out of four centers used by the White Helmets, a volunteer emergency-services groups that pulls injured citizens from bombed buildings.

Aleppo is the largest city in Syria, and the last significant stronghold of rebel forces. It has become the focus of intense fighting in the five-year civil war, because while President Bashar al-Assad’s forces control the city’s western portion, rebels still hold much of the city’s eastern side.

With the suspension in talks, the U.S. will withdraw personnel it had sent to create a joint U.S-Russia center, which would have coordinated military operations and intelligence, the State Department said in its statement.