LONDON, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called on Russia to end airstrikes on Syria as world leaders gathered together in London on Thursday, pledging $10 billion in humanitarian aid to the war-striken country.
British Prime Minister John Cameron announced the total of the pledge at a donor conference, ending a busy day of action regarding the Syrian civil war.
The United States pledged $891 million in relief in addition to the more than $5.1 billion the country has designated since the start of the conflict.
The U.S. State Department said its additional assistance to Syria will be funneled through the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, the World Food Program and UNICEF. The department’s statement was strongly critical of the Assad regime, noting Syrians who have remained in the country are in dire need of food, shelter, water, medical care, protection and other relief.
The financial relief comes one day after peace talks in Geneva were suspended over continued airstrikes, hundreds of which caused destruction in and around Aleppo, Syria. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights blamed the attacks on Russia and the President Bashar al-Assad regime.
SOHR released graphic video evidence of the casualties and damaged caused by the airstrikes on Thursday, saying Russian warplanes targeted the al-Shaar neighborhood in Aleppo.
“It could not be more clear. Russia voted for that. Russia has a responsibility, as do all parties, to live up to it,” Kerry said.
He made his comments at a breakfast meeting with diplomats from eight countries seeking a political solution to the conflict in Syria. He later discussed the matter privately with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“[Lavrov] agreed that we need to discuss how to implement the ceasefire, and also how to get access by both parties. The opposition needs to allow access for humanitarian assistance, and the regime in Syria needs to allow access.
“We will, I’m confident, find a way to move forward,” Kerry said.
Russian airstrikes in Syria have killed nearly 1,400 people since September, SOHR said Saturday, adding that trucks of humanitarian aid were arriving slowly in some Syrian communities.
The increase in Russian airstrikes has provoked additional hardship, and a mass exodus from Aleppo to the Turkish border, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglusaid in London. He reinforced his conclusion that Syria is the site of two theaters of war: against the Isis and against the Assad regime.
“Ten thousand new refugees are waiting in front of the door of Kilis, [Turkey], because of air bombardments and attacks against Aleppo. Sixty[-thousand] to 70,000 people in the camps in north Aleppo are moving towards Turkey. My mind is not now in London but on our border. How to relocate these new people coming from Syria. Three hundred thousand people living in Aleppo are ready to move towards Turkey,” Davutoglu said.
“The Russian Defense Ministry registers a growing number of signs of hidden preparation of the Turkish armed forces for active actions on the territory of Syria,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement. Each country issued statements Thursday on allegations by Turkey that Russia has contravened Turkish airspace with flights to Syria.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the conference, “The situation is not sustainable. We cannot go on like this. There is no military solution; only political dialogue will rescue the Syrian people from their intolerable suffering. It is deeply disturbing that the initial steps of the talks have been undermined by the continuous lack of sufficient humanitarian access, and by a sudden increase of aerial bombing and military activities within Syria.”
Meanwhile, in Geneva, U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura said he ordered a “temporary pause” in talks between Syrian government officials and an umbrella group of opposition organizations until at least Feb. 25. He expressed agreement that a ceasefire in Syria should accompany any negotiations.
“The talks would not be meaningful unless they were also accompanied by immediate, tangible benefits for the Syrian people,” he said.
By Ed Adamczyk