Confusion Over Cease-Fire as US Walks Back Kerry Comments | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Confusion Over Cease-Fire as US Walks Back Kerry Comments

The confusion reflects the general murkiness of an agreement that hasn't been presented publicly in written form

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Alexander Zemlianichenko, AP
    Lt.-Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military said that it would continue strikes against ISIS and the al-Qaida branch in Syria in coordination with the United States even as a cease-fire went into effect Monday.

    Confusion reigned Monday over Syria's new cease-fire as Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Russia could permit President Bashar Assad's government to launch new airstrikes against al-Qaida-linked militants. The State Department quickly reversed itself.

    Spokesman John Kirby said later there were no provisions under the nationwide truce for U.S.-Russian authorization of bombing missions by Assad's forces. "This is not something we could ever envision doing," he said.

    UK Police: 'Fatalities' at Grande Concert

    [NATL] UK Police: 'Fatalities' at Grande Concert

    British police said an explosion at an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena killed 22 people, including children, and injured more than 50. 

    (Published 2 hours ago)

    Kerry's comments at a news conference were the closest any American official had come to suggesting indirect U.S. cooperation with Assad since the civil war started in 2011. President Barack Obama called on Assad to leave power more than five years ago; the U.S. blames the Syrian leader for a war that has killed perhaps a half-million people.

    While Kirby called his boss' remarks "incorrect," Kerry's statement reflected the general murkiness of an agreement that hasn't been presented publicly in written form. The deal came after a marathon negotiation between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last Friday; descriptions by the two diplomats represent the only public explanation of what was agreed to.

    Under the truce that went into effect at sundown Monday, Assad's forces are no longer supposed to bomb Syria's opposition, Kerry said.

    If calm holds for seven days, the U.S. and Russia would then cooperate on how to jointly combat the al-Qaida-linked group formerly called the Nusra Front and now known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham. But the two powers also could approve Syrian combat missions against the group, he said.

    WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    [NATL] WATCH: Pippa Middleton Post-Wedding Kiss

    Pippa Middleton and James Matthews kiss after their wedding at St Mark's Church in Englefield, England, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Middleton, the sister of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, married hedge fund manager James Matthews in a ceremony Saturday. Her niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, were in the wedding party, along with sister Kate and princes Harry and William.

    (Published Saturday, May 20, 2017)

    "Assad is not supposed to be bombing the opposition, because there is a cease-fire," Kerry told journalists at the State Department. "Now he is allowed ... to target Nusra. But that will be on strikes that are agreed upon with Russia and the United States in order to go after them."

    The U.S. had never previously spoken of approving military operations by Assad.

    Later, Kerry's spokesman said a "primary purpose of this agreement, from our perspective, is to prevent the Syrian regime air force from flying or striking in any areas in which the opposition or Nusra are present."

    Once U.S.-Russian military cooperation is established, Kirby said, the focus would be to "coordinate military action between the U.S. and Russia, not for any other party."

    The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    [NATL-NY] The 'Greatest Show on Earth' Says Goodbye

    The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus that has wowed crowds for 146 years with its "Greatest Show on Earth" is taking its final bow on Sunday.

    (Published Sunday, May 21, 2017)

    Kerry implored all of Syria's warring sides to adhere to the cease-fire. He said there has been a reduction in violence in its first hours and said it offers an opportunity for peace.

    But in Aleppo, the northern city that has emerged as the epicenter of the fighting, opposition media activist Mahmoud Raslan said government helicopters dropped crude barrel bombs on a contested neighborhood. A doctor reported heavy shelling along the Castello road where supplies are expected to go through to reach rebel-held parts of Aleppo. The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

    Various militants backed by the U.S. and its Arab allies coordinate and even sometimes fight alongside al-Qaida-linked militants. Many Syrian and Russian operations have struck what U.S. officials describe as "moderate" forces that are "marbled" with the militants.

    The new cease-fire is supposed to end such ambiguities, and Washington has been urging rebel groups to break ranks with extremists.