INTERNATIONAL

U.S. suspends Syria talks amid rising tension with Russia

The survivor:Syrian Yehya Maatouq holds his four-month-old daughter Wahida. The child was rescued from rubble in Idlib by White Helmets volunteers last week.— PHOTO: AFP

The survivor:Syrian Yehya Maatouq holds his four-month-old daughter Wahida. The child was rescued from rubble in Idlib by White Helmets volunteers last week.— PHOTO: AFP  

The U.S. on Monday suspended talks with Russia over the protracted conflict in Syria, accusing the Kremlin of joining with the Syrian air force in carrying out a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged city of Aleppo.

Anticipating the end of the talks after repeated warnings from U.S. officials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia responded by withdrawing from a landmark arms control agreement that calls for each side to dispose of 34 tons of plutonium, a material used in nuclear weapons.

The developments signalled the further deterioration of relations between the U.S. and Russia.

Last shot

“Cooperation over Syria was the Obama administration’s last and best shot for arresting the downward spiral in the bilateral relationship with Russia,” said Andrew S. Weiss, a former White House expert on Russia who is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Just a month ago, it had appeared that Secretary of State John Kerry was on the verge of securing the long-sought cooperation of Russia on Syria through an agreement with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that called for a reduction of violence, access to humanitarian aid and the joint targeting of jihadi groups.

But no sooner was the agreement announced than it began to fray — first because of the accidental bombing of Syrian troops by the U.S. and then because of what the U.S. claimed was a deliberate bombing by Russian aircraft and Syrian helicopters of a humanitarian convoy headed to Aleppo.

“This is not a decision that was taken lightly,” John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said in a statement issued Monday. “The U.S. spared no effort in negotiating and attempting to implement an arrangement with Russia aimed at reducing violence, providing unhindered humanitarian access, and degrading terrorist organizations operating in Syria,” including fighters of the Islamic State and the Levant Conquest Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida formerly known as the Nusra Front.—New York Times News Service

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