President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to cease Russia’s bombing of rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama’s request came during a discussion with Putin over the phone Sunday, three days after the U.S., Russia and several other powers called for a “cessation of hostilities.” Russian bombing campaigns were noticeably absent from Thursday’s agreement. High Negotiations Council (HNC) officials representing the Syrian opposition pointed to continued Russian bombing as a key reason for the implosion of peace talks held earlier this month.
“In particular, President Obama emphasized the importance now of Russia playing a constructive role by ceasing its air campaign against moderate opposition forces in Syria,” said the White House in a statement.
The Thursday agreement is less a ceasefire and more an agreement to ensure aid can be delivered to Syrian populations suffering from the ongoing conflict. An official statement put forward by the powers involved in the talks says they hope a ceasefire will occur “within one week.”
“We must ask again, why wait a week for this urgently needed cessation of hostilities?” said Dalia al-Awqati, Mercy Corps director of programs in northern Syria, to Reuters.
Al-Aqawti’s remark followed a report from the Syrian Center for Policy Research which claimed Wednesday the ongoing five-year war has killed as many as 470,000 Syrians, a total drop of 11.5 percent in the country’s population.
Obama’s conversation with Putin follows an announcement by Turkey yesterday that Saudi Arabians military forces have began massing at the Turkish Incirlik military base, likely in preparation for a joint Turkish-Saudi invasion of Syria. The announcement followed a warning by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday, who said failure to negotiate over the conflict in Syria could lead to a “new world war.”
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