TSI Syria Updates: September 15, 2016

Takeaway

Three full days into the implementation of the US-Russia reduction of violence agreement, and humanitarian aid convoys are still being blocked from reaching besieged and hard-to-reach areas. There were conflicting claims over whether or not Syrian government forces had begun withdrawing from the Castello Road route into eastern Aleppo – a key component of the agreement. UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura and his humanitarian advisor Jan Egeland expressed increasing frustration with the lack of access to Aleppo, and the fact that the UN agencies have still not received approval from the Syrian government to send aid to other areas in need. In terms of reducing violence overall, the deal has largely continued to hold, although sporadic violations by both sides continue.

Military

  • 15 September 2016: There are conflicting claims over the withdrawal of armed forces from the Castello Road into Aleppo, which is a key aspect of the US-Russia ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire deal has held for the most part, with sporadic violations committed by both sides. Russia claimed the Syrian army started a gradual withdrawal from Castello Road and that armed opposition groups (AOGs) had not. Peter Cook, Pentagon spokesperson, said he could not confirm the withdrawal. Russia also claimed that only the Syrian government has observed the ceasefire, while AOGs have increased shelling of civilian areas. (Reuters, US State Dept, Reuters, Naharnet, Reuters, Russian MOD)
  • 15 September 2016: An airstrike on the ISIS-held town of al-Mayadeen in Deir Ezzor governorate reportedly killed 23 civilians. It was not clear whether Russia or the Syrian government carried out the attack. (Daily Star)

Political

  • 14 September 2016: Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stated on Thursday that France wants to see the ceasefire agreement between the US and Russia. As an ally, France wants to know the details of an agreement they might be asked to fully support. (Reuters)
  • 15 September 2016: Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy to Syria, and his humanitarian adviser, Jan Egeland, both expressed frustration with the Syrian government for not providing any permits for aid delivery to besieged areas. Egeland asked: “can well-fed grown men please stop putting political, bureaucratic, and procedural roadblocks for brave humanitarian workers that are willing to go to serve women, children, wounded civilians in besieged and crossfire areas?” They stated that the UN is pleased to see reductions of violence, but the lack of aid deliveries is “a problem.” (UNOG, Reuters, AFP)
  • 15 September 2016: Turkish chief of staff Hulusi Skar and Russian General Valery Gerasimov met in Ankara on Thursday to discuss the situation in Syria, and potential bilateral military cooperation. This is the highest level of military personnel to meet since relations between the two states soured last year. (AFP)
  • 15 September 2016: The Russian Ministry of defense accused the US of failing to fulfill its obligations under the ceasefire agreement, notably that the moderate opposition would separate from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) fighters. (Russian MOD)

Humanitarian

  • None

Notable Media/Transcripts/Reports

  • 14 September 2016: “America’s Mr. Diplomacy” (Washington Post)
  • 15 September 2016: “Transcript of Joint Stakeout by UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura and UN Senior Adviser Mr. Jan Egeland” (UNOG, video-UN webtv)
  • 15 September 2016: “What’s the Alternative?” by Frederic C. Hof (Atlantic Council)
  • 15 September 2016: “The Surprising Science of Cease-Fires: Even Failures Can Help Peace” by Max Fisher (NYTimes