State Department Admits Assad Violating Ceasefire In Syria, Will Not See Consequences

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The U.S. Department of State confirmed that despite Syria breaking the ceasefire with opposition forces, there are no planned repercussions.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner acknowledged in a press briefing Monday Syrian President Bashar Assad has been the biggest “violator” of the so-called “cessation of hostilities.” The cessation had been reported as fairly successful for several weeks, though violations on both sides have been witnessed recently. Despite such claims, a back and forth between Toner and a reporter revealed there are no consequences for violations of the ceasefire.

“Well, it was my understanding or it was I think the broader understanding that if people were found to be in violation, they would be kicked out of the agreement, basically, that they would no longer be covered … that has not happened?” asked the reporter.

“That has not happened,” replied Toner.

Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone call Monday regarding the cessation of hostilities and ongoing conflict in Syria. Russia, a key ally of Assad, has supported Syria in both its fight against Islamic State and opposition forces. Despite reports of Syrian violations, Toner said Kerry focused on “stressed the importance of expanding and improving on humanitarian access.” Toner did not confirm whether or not violations were discussed.

The cessation of hostilities between the Syrian government and opposition began midnight Feb. 26. During a seminar on Capitol Hill Friday, former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford acknowledged the cessation had been somewhat successful, much to the surprise of several other analysts.

Charles Lister, a Middle East Institute fellow who specializes in insurgencies and terrorism in the Middle East and joined Ford at the seminar, said the international community must recognize both sides are violating the cessation and acknowledge them. Willful blindness towards such actions, in his view, would be harmful towards a lasting solution he believes cannot involve Assad maintaining power.

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