White House Spins Syrian Rebel Surrender As A Success For Kerry

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The White House is portraying the potential surrender of the Syrian city of Aleppo as a result of Secretary of State Kerry’s “tough, tenacious diplomacy.”

Russia claimed that the Syrian military ceased fighting late Thursday as a result of a negotiation with the U.S. to allow rebels to evacuate the city, effectively surrendering it to Syrian government forces. Additionally, Russia claimed Syrian government forces are allowing civilians to leave the city immediately. A senior U.S. Department of State official traveling with Kerry in Paris could not confirm either agreement to the Washington Post, although that did not stop the White House from hailing it as a potential success.

“If that occurs, we obviously would welcome that development,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Thursday. “It won’t be some sort of accident or coincidence … it will be the product and the result of skilled, principled, tough, tenacious diplomacy and much of the credit will go to Secretary Kerry.”

Kerry met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov twice Thursday morning in Hamburg, Germany during an international conference. The two diplomats spoke again Thursday afternoon. Lavrov claims that he and Kerry reached an agreement to determine “the ways and methods of a final settlement of the eastern Aleppo problem through the departure of all militants and those civilians residents, who will wish to do so, from there,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The State Department claims that this agreement has been “discussed,” but not finalized.

Kerry’s track record in Syria is one of consistent failure. Peace talks began in Geneva Feb. 1, but were suspended just two days later. A “cessation of hostilities” was agreed upon Feb. 27, but fell apart almost immediately after Russian and Syrian air strikes resumed shortly thereafter. Another truce failed in late September, forcing Kerry to cut off bi-lateral talks with Russia in early October. Talks resumed in Lausanne, Switzerland Oct. 15, but failed to produce any tangible results.

Aleppo is the primary battlefield in the Syrian civil war, which has raged on for five years. Russian and Syrian government air strikes constantly target civilian targets in the city, leaving only husks where buildings once stood. The United Nations estimated as many as 400,000 people were killed in the fighting in April. The current number is likely much higher.

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