WASHINGTON The United States told Russia on Friday it will not set up a committee to enable joint targeting of militants in Syria until humanitarian aid begins to flow to the besieged city of Aleppo and other areas, the State Department said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the message in a telephone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during which he emphasized that Washington expects Moscow to use its influence on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "to allow UN humanitarian convoys to reach Aleppo and other areas in need," State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Aid for Aleppo was stuck on the Turkish border on the fifth day of a fragile ceasefire on Friday with rival factions arguing over how the supplies are to be delivered and violence increasingly undermining the truce.
"The secretary made clear that the United States will not establish the Joint Implementation Center with Russia unless and until the agreed terms for humanitarian access are met," Kirby said, referring to a U.S.-Russian agreement reached a week ago.
Under that agreement, a cessation of hostilities was slated to begin on Monday, unfettered humanitarian aid was to flow to Syria and, if both of those conditions were met for seven days, the United States and Russia were to set up a joint committee to coordinate strikes against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front militant groups, both of which are excluded from the ceasefire.
The United States and Russia agree on the value of extending the cessation of hostilities that began on Monday despite some continuing violence, Kirby said, but added that Kerry "expressed concerns about the repeated and unacceptable delays of humanitarian aid" during his conversation with Lavrov.
The Kremlin said on Friday it was using its influence to try to ensure the Syrian army fully implemented the ceasefire agreement and that it hoped the United States would use its own influence with rebel groups too.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by James Dalgleish)