US ends talks with Russia over Syria

US ends talks with Russia over Syria
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The United States is suspending talks with Russia about Syria after failing to revive a cease-fire agreement.

“The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the cessation of hostilities,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a written statement Monday. “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.”

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The decision comes after the collapse of a U.S.-Russia brokered cease-fire that took effect at the beginning of September.

If the cease-fire held for seven days and humanitarian aid got to besieged areas of the country, the United States and Russia were to start coordinating militarily to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the group formerly known as al Nusra.

But the cease-fire crumbled after the United States accidentally struck Syrian troops while targeting ISIS and an aid convoy was destroyed in an airstrike suspected to be carried out by Russia or the Syrian regime.

Further hope for a renewed cease-fire evaporated as regime forces, with Russian backing, pummeled Aleppo in a new assault on rebel-held parts of the city.

On Wednesday, the United States threatened to cut off talks with Russia if bombing in Aleppo didn’t immediately stop. A day later, Russia dismissed the ultimatum.

But Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryLet's not play Charlie Brown to Iran's Lucy The Memo: Democrats struggle to find the strongest swing-state candidate 2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster MORE continued to have discussions with his Russian counterpart in the following days in hopes of reviving the cease-fire. That drew criticism that the United States was not following through on its threat.

In Monday’s statement, the State Department said Russia has not lived up to its commitments.

“Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course, inconsistent with the cessation of hostilities, as demonstrated by their intensified attacks against civilian areas, targeting of critical infrastructure such as hospitals, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching civilians in need, including through the Sept. 19 attack on a humanitarian aid convoy,” Kirby said.

Russia has blamed the U.S. for the cease-fire failing, saying repeatedly that Washington did not live up to its commitment to separate Western-backed rebels from al Nusra.

Along with ending talks, the United States is also withdrawing personnel that had been sent to prepare for the potential joint military coordination with Russia, Kirby said.

Though the cease-fire talks have been suspended, talks meant to ensure the safety of pilots from both countries will continue, Kirby added. The U.S. and Russian militaries set up a communications line after Russia’s intervention in Syria to ensure there are no mid-air collisions.

Prior to the State Department’s announcement that talks have ended, the White House said patience with Russia has run out. 

“I think everyone’s patience with Russia has run out,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a briefing.

“They claim that they’re in Syria to fight extremists, but they haven’t achieved a significant counter-ISIL objective in more than seven months," he continued, using an alternate name for the Islamic State. "They have been reduced to claiming credit for U.S. operations."

— Ali Breland contributed