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Terrorists in eastern Aleppo surrounded — Lavrov

The Russian top diplomat stresses military operations will go on until eastern Aleppo is liberated from militants

HAMBURG/Germany/, December 9. /TASS/. There is a good opportunity to strike an agreement with the United States on the withdrawal of all militants from eastern Aleppo at the meeting of experts on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters.

"If the US experts again do not change their mind and put nothing new on the table, there is a very good opportunity to agree on how to finalize the settlement in eastern Aleppo by the withdrawal of all militants from there," Lavrov said on the sidelines of the OSCE Ministerial Council’s meeting.

Lavrov recalled that over the past days he has contacted with US Secretary of State John Kerry several times and an agreement was reached on holding a meeting of Russian and US experts in Geneva on Saturday.

Terrorists surrounded

 The arms supplied by the US to moderate opposition detachments go to terrorists, as a rule, but the militants surrounded in Eastern Aleppo will not get reinforcements, Lavrov said.

The US decision to lift the embargo on arms supplies to Syrian combatants will influence the Syria talks of Russia and the United States, he noted.

"It is another weird peculiarity of the US policy towards Syria and towards Aleppo, that is when the left hand is doing something constructive whereas the right hand is opening the sluice gate for pumping weapons to militants."

"I do not think it will have a significant impact on the situation in Eastern Aleppo as in Eastern Aleppo the bandits are surrounded and will hardly ever get an opportunity to get reinforcements," Lavrov said. "However, from the point of view of the further development of the Syrian situation, certainly, replenishment of arms can pose a major risk as practically in the overwhelming majority of cases the weapons delivered to the so-called moderate opposition go to terrorists."

Washington’s strange actions

Russia’s top diplomat said he cannot be sure that "there won’t be any surprise again." "That’s because it is very unclear how the US side behaves itself at the negotiations with us on Syria," he said.

"We proposed to hold a meeting on December 4 while the US asked for a meeting on December 7 which is hard to understand because they said the matter was urgent," Lavrov said. "We agreed on December 7. But on December 6, we received a message from them saying that the US had withdrawn its document (on Aleppo) but there was a new one, so under these circumstances there was no need to hold a meeting in Geneva."

"We assessed the new document and prepared a response in less than 24 hours," the Russian top diplomat went on to say. "The US welcomed our response, they made a few improvements, adopted the document and proposed that a meeting in Geneva be held as soon as possible."

According to the Russian minister, still, strange things continued to happen. "On December 5, it became clear that we should hold a meeting and come to terms over the agreement on eastern Aleppo, the UN Security Council was going to vote on a draft resolution on the same day," Lavrov pointed out. "But the need to make militants pull out of Aleppo was not mentioned in the draft resolution, it only said that a 10-day pause in military activities was necessary. We could not accept it because the proposed 10-day pause undoubtedly aimed at providing the militants with an opportunity to take a breath and get reinforcements."

"We proposed to cancel the voting since there was a Russian-US agreement that was different from the draft resolution," the Russian top diplomat noted. "The US ambassador (to the United Nations) said she did not know anything about it and saw no point in the Russian-US contacts. Later I asked Secretary of State John Kerry about this but he gave a strange answer saying it was the first time he heard about it because he wasn’t engaged in the micromanagement concerning the UN Security Council.

"It is strange to call the United Nations’ activities micromanagement since it is the world community’s supreme body responsible for maintaining peace and security," the Russian top diplomat noted.

According to Lavrov, when the US withdrew the document dated December 2 and put forward a new document, Kerry was attending NATO’s summit in Brussels. "He was asked about it but said he knew nothing about the new document adding that the US had not withdrawn the previous one."

"This is why we call all these actions strange," the Russian foreign minister concluded.

Military activities

Military activities in the Aleppo region were halted on December 8 only for a specific period of time in order to allow civilians to leave the city, Lavrov stressed.

"I never said that military activities have been stopped completely. I just said that they were halted yesterday for a specific period of time in order to provide civilians with an opportunity to leave," Lavrov said. "After these humanitarian pauses, military operations will go on until eastern Aleppo is liberated from militants."

"Everybody has understood it, our US counterparts have understood it," the minister added.

On Thursday, Lavrov said that the Syrian army had halted military activities in eastern Aleppo to allow a group of civilians to leave the city.

Cooperation with Turkey

The top diplomat believes cooperation with Turkey on Syria can be more effective than with the US.