By: VOA News
Source: VOA News
The U.S. is suspending Syria cease-fire talks with Russia, citing Moscow’s and Damascus’ continued military attacks against civilian targets.
“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. Though Washington “spared no effort” in trying to implement the cessation of hostilities, Russia “failed to live up to its own commitments,” Kirby said.
“(Russia) was also either unwilling or unable to ensure Syrian regime adherence to which Moscow had agreed,” the statement said. “Rather, Russia and the Syrian regime have chosen to pursue a military course.”
— John Kirby (@statedeptspox) October 3, 2016
Though the talks are suspended, the U.S. will continue to utilize a channel of communications established with Russia to reduce the possibility of conflicting counterterrorism operations in Syria, the statement said.
Russia has provided military support to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Washington has supported some of the rebel groups fighting to oust the Syrian president.
The two sides agreed to a cease-fire in last month to help reduce violence, provide humanitarian access, and degrade terrorist groups, but the deal quickly broke down, with each side blaming the other.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to end talks with Russia over Syria because of its continued bombing of the city of Aleppo.
The U.S. move to pull out of the talks came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday to suspend an agreement with the U.S. on disposing of weapons-grade plutonium, citing Washington’s “unfriendly actions”.
It also claimed the United States was unable “to ensure the implementation of its obligations to utilize surplus weapons-grade plutonium”.
The deal, initially signed in 2000 and renewed in 2010, called for both nuclear powers to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium from their defense programs.
Based on the 2010 agreement, signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, each side would dispose of 34 metric tons of plutonium by burning it in nuclear reactors.
Clinton said that was a quantity large enough to make almost 17,000 nuclear weapons.
US-Russia ties plunging
Russia and the United States viewed that deal as a sign of increased cooperation between them toward nuclear non-proliferation.
But ties between Moscow and Washington plunged to the lowest point since the Cold War when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has supported pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Washington has been instrumental in imposing Western economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukraine crisis.
State Department correspondent Nike Ching and White House Correspondent Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report