The Pentagon is maintaining a certain skepticism regarding the upcoming ceasefire in Syria, despite a confirmation from Moscow that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will comply.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook acknowledged Tuesday that the Department of Defense is taking Russian intentions to abide by the ceasefire with a “certain dose of skepticism.” Russia followed the comments with the release of a statement Wednesday saying al-Assad has reaffirmed his intent to follow the ceasefire agreement to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“He will wait to see whether not they comply with the agreement that they have signed up with,” said Cook after being asked whether or not Secretary of Defense Ash Carter believed Russia will respect the ceasefire. He noted that Carter will wait and see what Russia does come Saturday.
Secretary of State John Kerry has maintained optimism regarding Russia’s intentions.
“Without Russia’s cooperation I’m not sure we would have been able to have achieved the agreement we have now or at least get the humanitarian assistance in,” said Kerry regarding Russia’s aid in providing humanitarian assistance.
According to the Kremlin, Syria, “confirmed the readiness of the Syrian government to facilitate the establishment of a ceasefire” after a phone call between al-Assad and Putin. Al-Assad apparently called the agreement an “important step in the direction of a political settlement.”
The Pentagon’s skepticism over Russia’s intentions is understandable considering Russia and Syria continued bombing campaigns after a call for a “cessation of hostilities” on February 12. A leading official in the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) representing the Syrian opposition expressed significant doubts over the intentions of Putin and the Syrian government, questioning why it was the opposition that needed to take the first step towards peace.
The upcoming ceasefire will not require the major powers to cease bombing campaigns and other military actions against terrorist groups like the Nusra Front and the Islamic State (ISIS). Cook acknowledged that Secretary Carter is always looking to advance the campaign against ISIS, and will continue operations against the terrorist group after Saturday.
When asked what the Pentagon will do if Russia does not respect the ceasefire agreement, Cook responded by saying “we are always looking at contingencies.”
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