On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Russia that the U.S. will cut its communications and cooperation with the country regarding the ongoing civil war in Syria if the attacks on Aleppo do not stop.
Kerry issued the ultimatum through a phone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. State Department spokesperson John Kirby confirmed through a statement that during the phone call, the U.S. official grilled Lavrov over Syria and Russia’s continuous airstrikes on civilian structures in Aleppo such as hospitals, residential buildings and water supply facilities.
According to a human rights organization, the attacks by the two countries’ forces have already cause the deaths of over 200 individuals. These attacks began on Sept. 19 as part of Syria’s efforts to curb the growing rebel force in the country, which is believed to be the al-Qaeda-back group Nusra Front.
For these aerial bombardments, the Russian and Syrian forces oftentimes used incendiary and bunker-destroying bombs, which greatly contributed to the number of causalities caused by the attacks.
In his call to Lavrov, Kerry made it clear that the U.S. holds Russia responsible for the attacks on Aleppo. He also maintained that if the country’s military force continue bombing the city, then the U.S. will have to suspend its bilateral engagement with Russia regarding the current status of Syria. If this happens, then the proposed counterterrorism partnership between Russia and the U.S. will also cease.
In response, Lavrov said that the attacks were only carried out because certain groups in Aleppo violated the ceasefire agreement in Syria and joined forces with the Nusra Front.
However, Kirby countered Lavrov’s statement and claimed that terrorists were not the target of Russia’s airstrikes. Instead, the bombings carried out by the country’s warplanes largely affected civilian areas.
“That’s not what’s happening,” Kirby said according to the New York Times. “What we’re seeing them hit is not Nusra.”