US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Russia to implement a ceasefire and end its bombing of Syria. The UN reports 40,000 newly displaced people have gathered in several border areas of northern Syria.
Following his European trip aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict, Secretary of State Kerry said in Washington that Russia's bombing campaign was killing women and children in large numbers. It "has to stop," he said during a joint news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Kerry claimed both Moscow and Tehran were prepared for a ceasefire: "Russia has indicated to me very directly they are prepared to do a ceasefire," Kerry said. "The Iranians confirmed in London just a day and a half ago they will support a ceasefire now."
"We will have a much better sense in the next few days of how serious each party is," he added. "The Russians have made some constructive ideas about how a ceasefire in fact could be implemented," he continued. "But if it's just talk for the sake of talk in order to continue the bombing, nobody is going to accept that."
White House press secretary Josh Earnest mirrored Kerry's stronger line against Russia following months of attempts to cooperate with Moscow and find a solution to the Syrian conflict.
Earnest said: "There is no denying that the efforts of the Russian military to buck up and strengthen the Assad regime's grip on power only gives the Assad regime less of an incentive to come to the negotiating table and act constructively in conversations there."
Washington had previously accused Moscow of being "partly" responsible for the lack of progress at the Geneva peace talks this week.
'Dumb bombs' and more refugees
Kerry accused Russia of using "dumb bombs" in the campaign which has been stepped up around the Syrian city of Aleppo. "They are not precision bombs, and there are civilians, including women and children, being killed in large numbers as a consequence," he said.
Kerry also said hospitals had been targeted by Russian planes, which had also returned to bomb people rescuing the wounded.
The Syrian military with its allies has moved in to surround the city with the consequence of causing thousands of people to flee to the border with Turkey. Once a main commercial center, Aleppo has been divided between government- and rebel-controlled districts since 2012.
Turkey promised humanitarian help for the refugees but did not say if it would let them cross into the country, which already has taken in hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Syria. "The attacks and bombings by the Russian planes and the Syrian regime have left our brothers with nowhere else to go," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said in a televised speech on Friday.
The United Nations has estimated that in the last few days nearly 40,000 newly displaced people have gathered in several border areas of northern Syria.
jm/gsw (AP, AFP)