US calls on Russia to help enforce monthlong ceasefire in Syria

US calls on Russia to help enforce monthlong ceasefire in Syria

The U.S. on Thursday backed up the United Nations's call for a monthlong ceasefire in Syria and urged Russia to use its sway with Damascus to ensure aid workers access to hard-hit rebel enclaves. 

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said the U.S. is "extremely concerned" about escalating violence in rebel-held areas in the northwestern province of Idlib and in Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.

"The United States supports the United Nations calling for a month-long cessation of violence to allow the delivery of humanitarian supplies and the urgent medical evacuation of over 700 civilians in Eastern Ghouta," Nauert said in a statement.

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"Russia must use its influence with Damascus to ensure the Syrian regime immediately allows the UN to provide vital assistance to this extremely vulnerable population," she added.

The statement comes amid a wave of escalating violence as pro-Assad forces bombarded the rebel-held enclaves over a period of several days, with news outlets reporting a death toll of at least 150 in Eastern Ghouta alone. 

Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Thursday reported that it had struck pro-Assad forces following "an unprovoked attack," a rare instance of the U.S. hitting forces loyal to the regime, which is also supported by Moscow. The coalition said it had killed at least 100 pro-regime fighters in the air strikes.

Nauert's statement also references recent reports of chemical weapons allegedly used by the regime against rebel strongholds. The Syrian government has denied such reports. 

The U.N. called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire on Tuesday to allow aid workers to access the embattled areas in order to provide emergency supplies and to carry out medical evacuations.

But Russia cast doubt on whether such a cessation of violence is currently feasible. Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia said Thursday that the proposed ceasefire is "not realistic," Agence France-Presse reported

"We would like to see a cease-fire, the end of the war, but the terrorists, I am not sure are in agreement," he said.