Sunday 28 February 2016

Responding to the Americans

Toner should tone it down: Russian FM spokeswoman decries ‘harsh’ US rhetoric on Syria truce

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova © Maksim Blinov

27 February, 2016

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has lashed out at remarks recently made by the US State Department’s deputy spokesman, who urged Russia to “put up or shut up” over Syria’s truce, calling them rude and offensive.

Mark Toner made the remarks on Friday, stating Washington had received assurances from Moscow that it’s ready to stop bombing the so-called “moderate opposition,” as is called for by the landmark ceasefire deal reached between the two sides earlier this week.

I don’t know how to put it any better than saying: ‘It’s put up or shut up time,’” Toner told reporters, adding it was time for Russia to demonstrate through actions, rather than words, that it is committed to the ceasefire plan for Syria.

Russian Defence Ministry held briefing on peacemaking process in Syria

Mark had better order his own colleagues to shut up, if such an idiomatic style of communication is common among American diplomats,” Zakharova responded in a Facebook post on Saturday.

Today, the Russian Defense Ministry held a briefing regarding the beginning of the truce actions in Syria. It’s been explained clearly and plainly, even for you [Mark], who even failed to answer the question about the acquisition by the US of maps establishing the armistice zone, which were prepared by Russia,” Zakharova added, referring to the spokesman’s failure to comment on maps Russia has provided Washington detailing the combat situation in Syria.

So, Mark, until Russia ‘does not shut up,’ you have a chance to find out what is really going on in Syria,” Zakharova summed up.

On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry provided Washington with a map illustrating the current combat situation in Syria that was developed to highlight the regions where the ceasefire is in effect, and those which are controlled by terror groups, which can still be attacked. According to Russia’s General Staff, the map was given to the US side both during bilateral consultations on Friday and via military and diplomatic channels. Russia’s military has ceased all airstrikes on areas controlled by armed groups that have agreed to the terms of the ceasefire in Syria, the General Staff has said at a briefing on Saturday.

The spokeswoman also discussed Toner’s remarks in her interview with channel Russia-24, saying: “What do such harsh statements from the American side tell us? Firstly, of course, they proclaim a lack of any sense, and secondly, a lack of good manners. But most importantly, such rants indicate that the American side does not have any other arguments.”

On Friday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by Russia and the United States to endorse a landmark two-week “cessation of hostilities” by all sides involved in the conflict in Syria. The plan took effect at midnight Damascus time on Saturday, February 27. It does not cover Islamic State, Al-Nusra, or any other groups designated by the UN Security Council as terrorist organizations.

The Syrian government has accepted the terms of the truce on condition that military efforts against the terrorist groups operating in the region continue.

The country has been suffering from a foreign-backed militant insurgency since March 2011. Recent reports from the Syrian Center for Policy Research state that over 470,000 people have lost their lives in the conflict so far.

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