Kerry: continued fighting would hurt ‘whole’ Syria
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Tuesday that it may be difficult to keep Syria whole if it takes much longer to end the fighting.
“It may be too late to keep it as a whole Syria if we wait much longer,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing on the State Department’s annual budget request.
Kerry also said that, even if Russian-backed forces took the city of Aleppo, it is hard to hold territory in Syria.
He also said it will be seen “very quickly” whether countries are serious about Syria cessation of hostilities agreement, adding that there are several other options being considered if Syria cessation of hostilities does not take hold.
“Anybody who thinks that there is impunity for violating this… is making a grave mistake,” he said after its Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker, said he did not believe there would be any consequences under President Barack Obama.
“There is a significant discussion taking place now about Plan B if we don’t succeed at the table,” Kerry said.
His statement comes after the Syrian government on Tuesday accepted the terms of a ceasefire deal announced by the United States and Russia, a foreign ministry statement said.
The statement said the government would stop armed operations but would “continue counter-terrorism efforts” against ISIS, al-Qaeda and affiliated groups.
The deal was announced on Monday by Moscow and Washington and excludes ISIS and al-Qaeda.
“To guarantee that the cessation of hostilities will successfully start on the set date of Saturday, February 27, the Syrian government is ready to continue coordinating with Russia to determine the areas and armed groups that will fall under this ceasefire,” the statement said.
It said the armed forces reserved the right to respond to any attack by opposition groups.
Analysts say that given the facts on the ground – in particular the complex make-up of rebel forces and frequently shifting frontlines – the ceasefire may already be doomed to fail.
In northern Syria especially, many non-militant rebel groups have operational ties with al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, al-Nusra.