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ARAB EUROPEAN RELATIONS - Sep 18 - France Says Syrian Government Principally Behind Truce Violations.

France's foreign minister says that despite US-led coalition airstrikes on the Syrian army, it was Syrian government forces that were principally behind violations of a fragile cease-fire brokered by the US and Russia. "We have to hold on to this accord and keep it alive at all costs so we need to get over the events of the last few hours", Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters at a ceremony at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York. "But while there were these incidents ... we shouldn't forget that what has harmed the American-Russian cease-fire is firstly the regime. It is always the regime of Bashar al-Assad". Moscow stepped up its war of words with Washington on Sept 18, saying the airstrikes on the Syrian army, which killed dozens, threatened the implementation of the cease-fire plan and bordered on connivance with ISIS. Denouncing "tactics" by some, Ayrault, who has been critical of the US for not sharing details of the cease-fire deal with its allies, said everything needed to be done during the UN General Assembly this week to "recreate the conditions for the cease-fire" and especially ensure aid entered the besieged city of Aleppo. Under the deal, the US and Russia are aiming for reduced violence over seven consecutive days before they move to the next stage of coordinating military strikes against the former Nusra Front and ISIS, which are not party to the truce. Moscow has said it wants the deal rubberstamped through a UN Security Council resolution. "We can't back a deal if we don't know the main terms", Ayrault said. France has also been pushing for a separate UN Security Council resolution after a joint investigation by the UN and the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW found that Syrian government troops were responsible for two toxic gas attacks and ISIS militants used sulfur mustard gas. Paris is worried there could be a weak response to the reported chemical weapons attacks or that the issue could be sidelined because of the fragility of a Syria cease-fire deal agreed by Moscow and Washington. "We aren't forgetting anything and notably the resolution to condemn chemical weapons. It would be tragic that the UN closed its eyes on the use of chemical weapons", Ayrault said.

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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Sep 24, 2016
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