Syrian Opposition: Ceasefire Deal Lacks Credibility

A Civil Defense member and a man put out a fire after an airstrike on the rebel held Urm al-Kubra town, western Aleppo city, Syria September 20, 2016. Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

Syria's chief opposition coordinator Riad Hijab said on Tuesday that international efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Syria's civil war were doomed without any credible mechanism to designate blame or attribute consequences. Hijab, once a prime minister under Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said in an interview that the failings in the ceasefire deal brokered by the United States and Russia were flawed from the outset.

"We have no faith in the Russian side because their strategy is purely military," Hijab, who presides over the High Negotiations Committee of opponents of Assad, told Reuters on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly. The ceasefire was shattered and the United Nations suspended all aid shipments into Syria after a deadly attack on a convoy carrying humanitarian supplies to a town near Aleppo on Monday.

"Without designating those responsible, we don't see any credibility to this cessation of hostilities," Hijab said. "We can see that with what happened to the attack on the convoy. There are no consequences."

Hijab said the opposition had information that proved Russia and Syria were behind the attack on the U.N. convoy.

"Regime and Russians planes are responsible for this attack. Nobody else has planes in that zone," he said.

Both the Syrian and Russian governments have denied attacking the convoy and have blamed rebels. The United States and Russia are on opposite sides of the 5-1/2 year-long war in which hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Moscow backs Assad and Washington supports rebels seeking to topple him. Both countries share a commitment to defeat Islamic State militants who control parts of Syria and Iraq.

Hijab said a member of the HNC belonging to an armed opposition group had been assigned to protect the convoy and had witnessed Monday's attack. Hijab said there would ultimately not be a military victory and that the opposition would continue political efforts to end the "suffering of the Syrian people." However, he acknowledged that under current circumstances Assad's backer was using efforts to reach peace to get the upper hand on the ground.

"The Russians want to gain time to consolidate the military gains of the regime," he said. "They are taking advantage of the cessation of hostilities and U.N. resolutions, but have no intention to implement them."