Russia’s Lavrov says Syrian militants using ceasefires to regroup

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov arrives at the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in Vientiane

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Syrian rebels had used temporary ceasefires in and around Aleppo to regroup and rearm.

Lavrov, speaking at a news conference in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said he realized that brief daily ceasefires in place now to allow aid to enter and civilians to leave were not sufficient.

But he said it was difficult to make the ceasefires longer for the moment because of the risk of militants using them to regroup and rearm, something he said they had done in the past.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the hardships faced by people in Aleppo could not be alleviated by announcing three-hour ceasefires.

“It’s supposed to sound like a concession but it’s actually cynicism, because everybody knows that this amount of time is nowhere near sufficient to actually build up supplies for the desperate people there,” he told a government news conference.

He said the killing in Aleppo had to stop and the city needed to receive food and medical items without hindrance.

Seibert said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia, an ally of Assad against rebels in Syria’s five-year-old civil war, were largely responsible for the situation in the city:

“It’s primarily their decision whether there will be further deaths or whether the people there get help and hope after months of suffering.”

(Reporting by Polina Devitt; additional reporting by Michelle Martin and Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)