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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Kerry Calls for War Crimes Probe Into Russian Activity in Syria

By VOA News October 07, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for a war crimes investigation of Russia and Syria. He made the comment in a meeting in Washington with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault Friday.

Following an attack on a Syrian hospital Thursday night which left 20 dead and 100 wounded, Kerry said that people must be held accountable for the violence ravaging the country.

"Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and women and children," he said, adding that these acts "beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes."

An agreement between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last month would have created a new counterterrorism alliance in Syria, had fighting stopped for a week - long enough for humanitarian aid to reach affected areas. Neither condition was met, and airstrikes have continued.

Kerry ended bilateral discussions with Russia on their military partnership earlier this week.

"They are beyond the accidental now, way beyond, years beyond the accidental," Kerry said. "This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives."

As many as half a million people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the war in 2011. The United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Thursday that eastern Aleppo could be "totally destroyed" by the end of the year due to the "cruel, constant" military activities in the city.

As many as half a million people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the war in 2011.

The United Nations' special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said Thursday that eastern Aleppo could be "totally destroyed" by the end of the year due to the "cruel, constant" military activities in the city.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told journalists in Moscow this week that any airstrike or missile strike against Syrian government-controlled territory would present a "clear threat" to Russian service personnel present in Syria.

Security Council to vote on Cease-fire proposal

Meanwhile, in New York, the U.N. Security Council was privately briefed Friday from Geneva by U.N. Syria Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

De Mistura told reporters the previous day that there are 275,000 civilians living in eastern Aleppo and about 900 al-Nusra fighters.

"I would then like to ask the Russian authorities and the government of Syria, please look at my eyes too, and the eyes of the world and the public opinion," de Mistura said, "Are you really ready to continue this type of level of fighting using that type of weapons, and de facto destroy the whole city of eastern Aleppo, the ancient city of Aleppo, with its own 275,000 people, for the sake of eliminating 1000 al-Nusra fighters?"

Diplomats with knowledge of Friday's private council meeting said de Mistura repeated similar statements in the council. They added that the discussions were very tense and only council member Venezuela appeared to side with Russia in its defense of its military actions in eastern Aleppo.

"Staffan de Mistura was crystal clear. He could not be clearer," French Ambassador François Delattre told reporters after the meeting. "His message to the Security Council was you must act, and you must act now."

Delattre said the main priority is to stop the aerial bombardments in eastern Aleppo and that is what the draft resolution put forward jointly by France and Spain in the Security Council seeks to do.

He said after a week of "very hard, literally night and day" negotiations on the text with the other security council members, France would move for a vote on Saturday. "There is no time to waste," he said. "There is an absolute emergency in Aleppo."

While saying he would have to wait for instructions from Moscow, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin signaled a veto is likely. "I cannot possibly see how we can let this resolution pass," he told reporters.

"The French proposal is very hastily put together," Churkin added. "I frankly believe that it is designed not to make progress and take the situation out of the current stalemate or not to help Staffan de Mistura, but to cause a Russian veto."

He added that it is unprecedented for the council to ask a permanent member to limit its own activities. "There are certain things which we may do or not do. We may fly or not fly. But definitely they cannot expect that we will go there through a demand by the Security Council," Churkin said. "It does not mean certain things cannot happen, but they can happen through a certain process," he added.

UN correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report



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