KUWAIT CITY, Feb 29, (Agencies): Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Khaled Al-Jarallah on Monday voiced regret at breaches of Syria’s recently announced ceasefire over the last couple of days, but believed that the ceasefire would hold. Speaking to reporters following the opening of the fourth meeting of the international working group on stability, affiliated to the international coalition against the so-called Islamic State (IS), Al-Jarallah said if violations continued, then there would be an alternative plan agreed by involved parties, mainly the US and its allies. He added that Kuwait could play part in this context within the framework of the international coalition.
The UN Security Council late on Friday adopted unanimously Resolution 2268 endorsing US-Russian joint statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria. The resolution was drafted by both International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) co-chairs Russia and the US. Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said there were violations of the ceasefire from Russian and Syrian regime aircraft by targeting civilians and moderate opposition groups. Speaking at a joint news conference with Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen, Al-Jubeir called on Syrian regime and Russian to commit to the truce which became effective last Saturday. His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah sent on Saturday two cables to US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his cables, His Highness the Amir welcomed the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2268 endorsing the US-Russian joint statement on Cessation of Hostilities in Syria.
His Highness the Amir appreciated both leaders’ efforts to adopt this joint statement, hailing it as a genuine step and a glimpse of hope for ceasing several years of hostilities in Syria which have so far claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrian people. His Highness the Amir wished that this could lead to a political solution to the Syrian crisis in order to put an end to the tragic situation and humanitarian sufferings of the brotherly Syrian people inside and outside Syria, to fulfill their legitimate demands and to bring security and stability back to Syria. His Highness the Amir also hoped that all involved parties would stick to the resolution so that the international community can focus on fighting and eradicating terrorism.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed concern over reports of violations of a three-day-old ceasefire in Syria on Monday and urged all parties to respect the truce. “We have seen encouraging signs that the ceasefire is largely holding, but at the same time we have seen some reports about violations,” Stoltenberg told a press conference in Kuwait City. “Of course, that is of concern because it is important that all sides should respect the agreement,” which is the best way to renew efforts for a political solution to the devastating five-year conflict, he said. The ceasefire deal was brokered by Moscow and Washington and took effect at midnight on Friday.
It entered its third day largely intact on Monday despite accusations of violations from both sides. Stoltenberg said NATO was also concerned about Russia’s military buildup in Syria, where it has carried out a five-month bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad. “We are concerned about the Russian military buildup we have seen in Syria,” whether it is military or air force, he said.
The NATO chief said Russian air strikes had “mainly targeted” non-jihadist rebels rather than the Islamic State group, which has been targeted by a US-led coalition. He said the Western alliance had no plans to send ground troops to Syria as part of the campaign against the jihadists. Turkish armed forces shelled positions of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria in coordination with the US-led international anti-jihadist coalition, local media reported on Monday.
Turkish artillery fired 50 to 60 shells from howitzers positioned in its southern Kilis region against IS targets in the north of Syria’s Aleppo province, the private Dogan news agency reported. A fragile ceasefire has taken effect in Syria, but jihadists are excluded from it. It was the fi rst attack in several weeks since Turkey, a member of the international coalition against the IS group, stuck jihadist positions in Syria. Turkish artillery have fired on IS targets in Syria and in Iraq after a deadly suicide attack in Istanbul’s tourist hub of Sultanahmet in January.
The ceasefire deal in Syria, brokered by Russia and the United States, has been in place since Friday midnight. UN chief Ban Ki-moon said there been some incidents but the ceasefi re was generally holding. The deal does not apply to territory held by the IS group and al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front. Turkish artillery has fired Kurdish militia forces this month, saying it was responding to incoming fire. Ankara said the Syria truce should have excluded the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which it considers to be a terror group linked to its own Kurdish militants. However the United States works closely with the YPG as the best fighting force on the ground in northern Syria the battle against IS.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday that a shaky cease-fire in Syria is holding “by and large” despite sporadic fighting that continued across Syria and growing accusations of violations that threatened to derail the truce, now in its third day. A war of words between the Syrian government and Saudi Arabia, a key backer of the Syrian opposition, added to the rising tensions.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said recent statements by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir were “lies meant to boost the morale” of militants who have suffered setbacks in Syria in recent weeks and demonstrate the kingdom’s “destructive role” in Syria. Monday’s statement came a day after al-Jubeir reiterated Saudi Arabia’s longstanding position that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the future of Syria and that he must leave power, either peacefully or through military means. Al- Jubeir also accused Syrian forces of violating the cease-fire.
Speaking to reporters Monday in Geneva, Ban confirmed receiving a letter from the High Negotiations Committee, the main umbrella opposition group, complaining of continuing violations by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian backers.
The letter sent Sunday urged the UN to help “specify the territory covered by the truce to prevent hostilities in the designated inclusion zones.” The Russia-US-brokered cease-fire that went into effect at midnight Friday excludes the Islamic State group as well as al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. The cease-fire has significantly reduced violence across the war-ravaged country, bringing some respite to civilians particularly from airstrikes.