Palmyra syria conflict.jpg
Photograph: EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI

Russia and the United States Monday vowed to put pressure on both the Syrian government and rebel forces to shore up a crumbling ceasefire after more than two weeks of deadly clashes and airstrikes in the north of the country.

A joint statement from the two countries said that Moscow, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, would "work with Syrian authorities" to cut down on air operations over civilian areas.

Airstrikes on a hospital and a refugee camp in rebel-held areas of northern Syria in recent weeks killed an estimated 80 people, causing international outrage. The opposition, which has no air force, blamed the government for both strikes.

Moscow and Washington said they had "re-emphasized the terms" of the cessation to field commanders on all sides, especially in the northern city of Aleppo, the outskirts of Damascus and the northern Latakia region where heavy fighting has taken place since mid-April.

They also pledged to press the parties to the conflict to ensure the delivery of aid to besieged areas, including Daraya and other rebel-held towns near Damascus.

Opposition negotiators cited government obstruction of aid deliveries to Daraya and other areas as one of their reasons for suspending their participation in peace talks in Geneva last month.

The statement came as key countries backing the Syrian opposition met in Paris at the invitation of French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault as a recourse to the stalled peace talks.

Officials from Germany, the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Qatar, Turkey, the European Union, Britain and Jordan were to take part in the meeting, along with Riad Hijab, coordinator of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee.

Speaking to reporters in Paris, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the group would observe the way Monday's statement from Russia and the US impacts conditions on the ground in Aleppo.

He added that they would reconvene on Tuesday in Vienna to assess the impact.

France's Ayrault accused the regime of not putting forth any concrete proposals in Geneva and of undermining the principles of the rivived peace process launched in Vienna last year.

He described Monday's meeting as a mobilization of the international community but said it was not meant to replace the meetings of the International Syria Support Group, which brings together outside backers of both the Syrian government and the opposition, including the United States, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The French foreign minister and US Secretary of State John Kerry were due to meet for a working dinner after the Syria conference. Kerry was also to meet with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday morning before travelling to Britain.

Aleppo, where 50 people died in the airstrike on the al-Quds hospital, has been the focus of recent international talks.

The implementation of the cessation of hostilities there is complicated by the active role on the rebel side of Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front. As a UN-designated terrorist group, it is excluded from the terms of the cessation.

Rebel forces spearheaded by al-Nusra made advances south of the city last week, and rebels inside the city have shelled the government-held western sector despite a Russian-announced truce that began on Thursday.

Retaliatory shelling and government airstrikes have claimed a total of almost 300 civilian lives in the city since April 22, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

The Aleppo truce officially ends, per the Russian announcement, at 0100 Tuesday local time (2200 GMT Monday).

Related stories

Latest news

Turkey removes restrictions on Islamic headscarves in the military

Female members of the Turkish military, including officers, will be allowed to wear the Islamic headscarf as long as it is color-compliant with their uniform, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Protesters clash with police in Nepal anti-government shutdown

Anti-government protesters clashed with police in towns across southern Nepal and attacked a municipal building Wednesday as they forced a shutdown in the region over local elections.

Pollster: Trump presidency is causing Germany's AfD to lose support

A prominent German pollster said Wednesday that the "chaotic" leadership of US President Donald Trump has caused an electoral decline for Germany's right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

Iraq's powerful Shiite militia attacks Islamic State near Mosul

Baghdad (dpa) - Iraq's powerful Shiite militia launched a major attack Wednesday to recapture areas near the city of Mosul from Islamic State, backing an ongoing government offensive against the radical Sunni group.

11 Bosnian citizens wanted by Interpol for terrorism

Acting on a request by Bosnia and Herzegovina, Interpol has issued an international arrest warrant for a national of that country, Amir Dzinic, for links to the terrorist organisation Islamic State, Bosnian media said on Wednesday.

Pakistani TV channel in hot water for airing film about lesbians

Pakistan's state media watchdog has warned a private TV channel for airing a film on the relationship between two lesbians, saying it was against the "social, ethical and societal norms of the country."

Stolen gate from former Nazi camp returns to Germany

A gate stolen in 2014 from a former Nazi concentration camp will be returned to the Dachau memorial site on Wednesday, after its return to Germany from Norway.

China wants to open 50,000 football schools by 2025

China plans to open 50,000 football schools by 2025, as part of a long-haul effort to become a world leader in the game, Chinese state media reported Wednesday.

Airbus profits take hit after write-off on new military aircraft

Airbus Wednesday announced that its profits for 2016 were down 63 per cent to 995 million euros (1,046 million dollars) after a major write-off on a troubled programme to develop a new military transport aircraft.

Monitor: Israeli jets hit arms depots near Damascus

 Israeli warplanes Wednesday hit arms depots near the Syrian capital Damascus, a monitoring group reported.

S African court invalidates International Criminal Court withdrawal

South Africa's government must seek legislative approval before it can withdraw from the International Criminal Court, ruled a court Wednesday, throwing up a roadblock to attempts to part ways with the international tribunal.

Senior Yemeni army commander killed while fighting rebels

A senior commander of Yemeni government troops died Wednesday while fighting rebels in the war-torn country's south-west, according to military sources.