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Analysts warn hostilities to flare up again if humanitarian pause in Aleppo is disrupted

October 19, 2016, 18:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Analysts see a direct link between the US' response to the idea proposed by Moscow and Damascus to introduce a humanitarian pause in Aleppo and the militants’ refusal to leave the city

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© AP Photo/ Manu Brabo

MOSCOW, October 19. /TASS/. If the humanitarian pause in Aleppo is disrupted, Russia and Syria will have to resume the operation against the militants in the area, polled experts have told TASS.

Earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said the Russian and Syrian authorities had made a decision to pause air strikes in the area of Aleppo starting from 10:00 on Tuesday morning for the introduction of an eight-hour long humanitarian pause in the city, thus enabling civilians and armed groups in the eastern part of Aleppo to leave the city through special corridors and also making it possible to evacuate the sick and injured and let in UN humanitarian convoys into the residential areas.

In the meantime, International Syria Support Group experts have gathered in Geneva with the aim to help speed up the separation of moderate opposition from Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist organization out lawed in Russia) and its likes.

Militants turn attentive ear to US Department of State’s message

Analysts see a direct link between the US Department of State’s response to the idea proposed by Moscow and Damascus to introduce a humanitarian pause in Aleppo and the militants’ refusal to leave the city.

US Department of State spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday said the measure was belated. After that the political officer of the Fastaqim group, Zakaria Malahifji, refused to pull his men out of Aleppo. "The factions completely reject any exit - this is surrender," he said.

The commander of the radical group Ahrar al-Sham, Al Farouk Abu Bakr, made a similar statement.

The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Aleksandr Ignatenko, believes that Toner’s remark was aimed not only against the Russian-Syrian initiative for a humanitarian pause in Aleppo.

"It is common knowledge that the United Nations supports this initiative. Currently the UN is working on the possibility of pulling militants out of Aleppo. The UN Secretary General’s special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has expressed the readiness to contribute to this process. It turns out that the United States resists the will of the international community as represented by the United Nations," Ignatenko said.

"Nusra militants have surely interpreted the US Department of State’s message as evidence of support for their determination not to leave Aleppo and to keep fighting against Bashar Assad’s army with the backing of the United States and its allies," says the leading research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute, Boris Dolgov.

The deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Andrey Klimov, remarks that many armed groups in Syria are controlled from the United States. "I am referring not to the Department of State, but to the Pentagon and the US commando units in Syria. It would’ve been surprising if the United States had no agents of influence inside Syria’s armed opposition and other Islamist groups determined to oust Assad," Klimov said.

Corridor from Mosul leads to Syria

As the Iraqi army with support from the US-led coalition launched an operation for regaining the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants (IS is outlawed in Russia as a terrorist organization), polled analysts have warned of the risk the terrorists may retreat from Iraq into Syria.

"The Islamists’ flight from Mosul to Syria is quite possible. Under the coalition’s strikes Islamic State militants may rush towards the Syrian border," Ignatenko believes.

"The risk terrorist groups may pour into Syria from Mosul does exist. It should not be ruled out that this is one of the side effects of the operation in Mosul the United States would like to achieve," Dolgov said.

Klimov suggests taking a closer look at the map showing the US-led coalition’s strikes in the area of Mosul. "The coalition forces are attacking from all sides but one - Syria. In other words, the IS militants are offered a direct route of retreat into Syria," Klimov said.

Military-political solution needed

"Without suppressing four or five major Islamist groups in Syria a political settlement of the crisis will be impossible," says Dolgov, who returned from Damascus lately. This was precisely the conclusion of an international media conference against terrorism the Syrian capital hosted just recently.

"Many Russian experts keep saying that the Syrian crisis cannot have a military solution. Consequently, there must follow military-political settlement. This is not the first case in which Russia makes a gesture of goodwill by calling for truce in Syria. And each time the extremists use the pauses in combat operations for redeployment and buildup of military muscle," Dolgov said.

In his opinion, if the humanitarian pause Moscow and Damascus have declared fails to bring about the expected effect, then the operation to regain control of the eastern part of Aleppo will have to be taken to its logical outcome. "If Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (former Jabhat al-Nusra) is reluctant to remove its militants from Aleppo in exchange for security guarantees provided by Russia, Syria and the United Nations, the combat operations against extremists will most probably resume," Ignatenko agrees.

"The humanitarian pause was declared for the sole purpose of letting everybody who can and wants to leave to get out of eastern Aleppo. If the militants’ attacks go on, they are to be countered," Klimov said.

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