The Latest: UN ‘deeply concerned’ about Syrians in the south
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):
A spokesman says the U.N. is “deeply concerned” about the safety of an estimated 750,000 people in southern Syria amid an unraveling cease-fire.
Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday the world body is calling on all parties involved to take any steps necessary to protect civilian lives and infrastructure and allow freedom of movement.
The U.S., Russia and Jordan negotiated a truce last year for the southern area, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But the calm has started to fall apart in recent weeks.
The Syrian government has turned its attention to the south after capturing the last rebel-held areas around the capital, Damascus, earlier this year. Syrian government forces shelled rebel-held areas in the south on Thursday.
The United States is warning Russia and Syria’s President Bashar Assad of “serious repercussions” for violations of an unraveling ceasefire in southwest Syria.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the U.S. remains “deeply troubled” by reports of “increasing Syrian regime operations” within the boundaries of the truce. She says U.S. reports show that Assad’s forces and militias have violated the cease-fire with airstrikes, rocket attacks and artillery.
Nauert says the U.S. demands that Russia “restrain” Assad’s forces from further action in the zone covered by the truce. She says Secretary of State Mike Pompeo relayed that message to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by phone over the weekend.
The U.S. says it expects “all parties to respect the cease-fire.”
Turkey’s top diplomat says a Syrian Kurdish militia will begin withdrawing from a strategic town in northern Syria on July 4.
Speaking to private CNN Turk on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG would leave Manbij as part of a recent Turkish-American deal.
The United States has been backing and arming the militia to combat the Islamic State group in Syria. That support has caused a rift with its NATO ally Turkey, which considers the YPG a terror organization and an extension of a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.
The minister said the United States would take back arms it has provided to the group. According to a “roadmap” on Manbij, Cavusoglu said the U.S. will “take weapons from the YPG and we will supervise and observe that.”
Syrian state media say government forces have shelled rebel-held areas in the south, in new violence that further undermined an international “de-escalation” agreement backed by the United States.
The intermittent shelling over the past week comes as the government has threatened to launch a new offensive on the area, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The U.S., Russia and Jordan negotiated a de-escalation agreement in July.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the shelling Thursday on areas north of the city of Daraa, saying more than 12,000 people have been displaced by the shelling since Tuesday. State media say the shelling targeted “terrorists” posts, destroying their weapons.