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U.S.-Russian Agreement on Syria Stumbles at Last Minute | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A boy rides a bicycle near rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel held al-Maadi district of Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 31, 2016/ Reuters/ Abdalrhman Ismail

Beirut-The level of optimism surrounding a U.S.-Russian deal dropped in the last few hours when Washington announced the failure of the two states to reach a final agreement on Syria, blaming Moscow for backtracking on already agreed issues.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said from China Sunday that the Syrian conflict could only be solved through political means.

Sources at the Syrian opposition told Asharq Al-Awsat that opposition military factions had received a letter from the U.S. Envoy to Syria Michael Ratney, including some details about the ceasefire in the country, and particularly in Aleppo.

The main terms of this ceasefire stipulate the establishment of a weapons-free supply route (probably the Castello road), an end to attacks on opposition areas and civilians, respecting the ceasefire and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to the city’s population, the letter said.

According to Reuters, the letter dated Sept. 3, would force Russia to prevent warplanes from bombing areas held by the mainstream opposition and require the withdrawal of Damascus’ forces from a supply route north of Aleppo.

In return, the United States would coordinate with Russia in fighting against al-Qaeda, it said, without elaborating.

Opposition factions have already started studying the letter, while the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) is waiting to announce its position after receiving more details about the new agreement, both HNC spokesmen Monzer Makhous and Riyad Naasan Agha told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Agha said: “We have no idea what were the controversial points that have led Washington and Moscow into a dispute and why the U.S. had announced the withdrawal of the Russian side from the bilateral talks.”

The former vice-president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Hisham Marwa, who participated in the preparatory meetings of the committee on Saturday and Sunday told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is a U.S. effort to reach a near agreement, however, the problem, as usual, remains with Russia’s failure to respect the practical steps.”

On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama said that the two countries were struggling to reach a new ceasefire agreement between Damascus and rebels.

The U.S. State Department had announced that an agreement between Washington and Moscow to stop the fighting in Syria was expected between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in China’s Hangzhou on Sunday.

However, few hours after the announcement, a senior State Department official admitted that no agreement had been reached and that the two sides would resume talks on Monday, without elaborating.

The situation on the battlefield was not any better.

On Sunday, regime forces helped by the Russian air jets launched intense aerial and artillery attacks and succeeded to drive insurgents out of the Ramousah military complex in Aleppo.

Opposition forces had controlled the complex early last month, breaking through a regime siege of eastern Aleppo.

However, Sunday’s advances allowed regime forces to enforce a new siege of the area.