The International Syria Support Group meeting agreed on Tuesday of the need to pursue a nationwide ceasefire under the U.S.-Russian plan despite continued violence in Syria, the U.S. State Department said.
“The members also discussed the importance of continuing to put pressure on the terrorist groups ISIS,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Kirby further elaborated on the difficulties found by foreign forces present in Syria to distinguish moderate opposition fighters from ISIS-styled extremists.
As for humanitarian relief promised to areas in dire needs, the United Nations asked in vain for warring sides in Syria to stop air strikes targeting an aid convoy, the U.N. Syria and regional humanitarian coordinators Massimo Diana and Kevin Kennedy said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
“The U.N. in Syria was informed of the air strikes as they unfolded. Despite our efforts and communications with parties to the conflict, further airstrikes continued throughout the night, hampering efforts to reach and attend to the wounded,” the statement said.
The Syrian Red Crescent said the head of one of its local offices and “around 20 civilians” were killed in Monday’s strike, which a war monitoring group blamed on Russian or a pro-regime Syrian aircraft.
Russia, which is allied to Assad’s government, denied that either its air force or that of the Syrian armed forces was responsible. The Syrian army also denied blame.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier struck a decidedly pessimistic note about the chances of halting violence in the Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year, as he arrived for the meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
“We will have to reflect if there are ways back to negotiations on a truce, or if this has already become hopeless,” Steinmeier told reporters before the meeting in a New York luxury hotel.
Speaking afterwards, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also voiced doubts. “It was a dramatic meeting. Is there still a chance this ceasefire will be effective? I can’t answer that question,” Ayrault told reporters.