- Title: Russia guilty of "constant lies" over Aleppo, France says
- Date: 12th December 2016
- Summary: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (FILE) (REUTERS) FLAGS OUTSIDE EU COUNCIL BUILDING
- Embargoed: 27th December 2016 11:06
- Keywords: Attacks Turkey Egypt Syria Mogherini Ayrault Aleppo Palmyra EU Russia
- Location: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- City: BRUSSELS, BELGIUM
- Country: Belgium
- Reuters ID: LVA0015CKVK93
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The European Union's foreign ministers met on Monday (December 12) in Brussels to discuss the situation in Syria, with France's Foreign Minister accusing Russia of "constant lies" about its willingness to negotiate a ceasefire in Aleppo.
As she arrived for the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini expressed her solidarity with Turkey and Egypt after both countries suffered deadly attacks over the weekend.
France's Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose country hosted a meeting on Saturday of states that oppose Syria's Assad, including Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, accused Moscow of intentionally deceiving its partners over the Aleppo ceasefire negotiations.
"There is a Russian dual language and a form of constant lies. On the one hand they say let's negotiate, let's negotiate and we will reach a ceasefire. And on the other hand, they continue the war, a total war, it's a desire to save the (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad's regime and to make Aleppo fall. But at what cost? What will be the humanitarian cost? And if Aleppo falls, what will happen then? There are those who are naive who think it would be the end of the war," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters in Brussels following the failure of weekend talks in Paris.
He said proof that Russia's stated aim of targeting militants was false lay in reports that Islamic State had retaken the ancient city of Palmyra.
"Regarding the fight against terrorism, which I was talking about, the Russians, who pretend to fight against terrorism, are in fact focussing on Aleppo and have given space to Daesh, the Islamic State, which is in the process of taking back Palmyra, which is very symbolic," Ayrault told reporters.
The Syrian army and its allies were in the "final stages" of recapturing Aleppo after a sudden advance that has pushed rebels to the brink of collapse in a shrinking enclave, a Syrian general said on Monday.
While Aleppo's fall would deal a stunning blow to rebels trying to remove Assad from power, he would still be far from restoring control across Syria. Swathes of the country remain in rebel hands, and on Sunday Islamic State retook Palmyra.
Tens of thousands of civilians remain in rebel-held areas, hemmed in by ever-changing front lines, pounded by air strikes and shelling, and without basic supplies, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders insisted that the international community had to find a way to provide a safe way to the civilians trapped in the city to flee if they wanted to.
The Syrian army is backed by Russian war planes and Shi'ite militias supported by Iran. The mostly Sunni rebels include groups backed by the United States, Turkey and Gulf monarchies as well as hardline jihadists who are not supported by the West.
Hundreds had been injured by Russian and Syrian air strikes and shelling by government forces and its allies on the besieged eastern part of the city.
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