Russia: Syria peace talks postponed indefinitely due to rebel attacks

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, seen here during a teleconference on Tuesday, said peace talks with the Syrian rebels have been postponed due to the rebels' attacks on civilian populations in Aleppo. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

MOSCOW, Nov. 1 (UPI) — Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday said negotiations between the warring sides in Syria have been postponed indefinitely due to rebel attacks.

Shoigu made the announcement during a teleconference with leaders of the Russian armed forces in which he criticized the West’s strategy in Syria. He said Russia has not conducted operations in Aleppo in the past 16 days, but added that “moderate” rebels — some backed by the United States — have carried out “massive attacks.”

“The Russian aviation has not been performing operations in Aleppo within last 16 days,” Shoigu said. “At the same time, more than 2,000 so-called moderate oppositionists assisted by 22 ‘moderate’ tanks, 15 infantry fighting vehicles, eight jihad-mobiles with suicide bombers, and multiple launch rocket systems were carrying out massive attacks and shelling against residential quarters, schools and hospitals.”

Shoigu said that due to the rebel attacks on Aleppo, peace talks have been delayed.

“Is this the opposition possible to negotiate with?” said the head of the Russian military department. “Prospects of the start of the political process and their return to peaceful life are postponed to uncertain period of time,” Shoigu said.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began carrying out airstrikes in Syria in September 2015. Russia has targeted the Islamic State as well as Syrian rebels who oppose Assad’s regime, which considers all rebels to be terrorists.

Syria has been blighted by a complex civil war in which the Islamic State, the Syrian government and multiple Syrian rebel groups fight for control of territory. Shoigu called on the West to pick a side to fight against — “terrorists or Russia.”

“By now, the western counterparts should have decided who they are fighting against: terrorists or Russia,” Shoigu said. “Perhaps they forgot who caused killing of innocent people by terrorist attacks in Belgium, France, Egypt, Iraq and other countries.”

Russia and Assad’s regime have been accused of committing war crimes due to their at-times indiscriminate bombing in civilian populations, particularly over their alleged bombing of hospitals and schools.

Russia has been accused of carrying out airstrikes and operations in Aleppo during the past 16 days despite Shoigu’s comment that Russia “has not been performing operations in Aleppo.”


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