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UN Chief Calls Syria Convoy Attackers 'Cowards' As Diplomats Seek To Salvage Cease-Fire

September 20, 2016

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned a deadly air strike on humanitarian aid trucks near Aleppo, calling those behind the attack "cowards" as diplomats scrambled to preserve a cease-fire in Syria.

Ban said in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 20 that those "delivering life-saving aid were heroes" and called the attack "sickening, savage, and apparently deliberate."

The United Nations suspended all humanitarian convoys in Syria on September 20, one day after the deadly air strike on aid trucks and a warehouse near the besieged northern city of Aleppo killed at least 20 civilians.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) said it was also suspending all work in Aleppo Province for three days in protest of the September 19 attacks.

It was unclear whose aircraft were behind the strikes.

The Russian Defense Ministry rejected reports that the aid convoy was bombed by warplanes, saying instead that the convoy had caught fire and hinting that Moscow believes either militants with the Al-Nusra Front or members of the White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense group, were to blame.

"[The question of] who caused it and with what aim can be answered only by…representatives of the White Helmets organization, which is close to the Al-Nusra Front," Russian news agencies quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.

Konashenkov said that Russian and Syrian air forces "did not conduct any strikes" against the aid convoy.

The Syrian military also denied bombing the convoy, state media reported.

The U.S. government earlier said it was "outraged" by the attack and would be raising the matter with Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The attack severely damaged hopes that a week-old cease-fire brokered by Russia and the United States could hold, despite declarations by Washington, Moscow, and more than a dozen other countries on September 20 that the deal remained alive despite the mounting violence.

"The cease-fire is not dead," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. "We are going to continue to work. We are going to meet again Friday (September 23) on some specific steps."

Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov led the meeting of the 23-nation International Syria Support Group on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters that "the mood is that nobody wants to give this thing up."

"Quite frankly, the Kerry-Lavrov process is the only show in town and we've got to get that show back on the road," Johnson added.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, meanwhile, called the meeting "fairly dramatic" and "gloomy."

"Is there hope? I can't answer that yet, but we should do everything we can," Ayrault said.

Addressing the UN General Assembly for the final time on September 20, U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated Washington's position that there can be no military solution to the 5-year-old Syria conflict.

"There's no ultimate military victory to be won. We're going to have to pursue the hard work of the diplomacy that aims to stop the violence and deliver aid to those in need," Obama said.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, RIA, and TASS

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/syria-un-suspends- aid-convoys-after-attack/28002399.html

Copyright (c) 2016. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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