WASHINGTON – The Obama administration, frustrated by Syria’s ongoing violence, told Russia on Tuesday to “put up or shut up” about implementing
a ceasefire in the Arab country, even as the US backpedaled from an agreement for the truce to begin by Friday.
Washington and Moscow announced after at a conference in Germany last week that the ceasefire would start by Feb. 19, raising hopes of a major breakthrough in a war that has raged for nearly five years, killed more than 250,000 people, beset Europe with its worst refugee crisis since World War II and helped the Islamic State emerge. But State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday only stressed the need to “see some progress on a cessation of hostilities in the coming days.” He said he couldn’t “say categorically that … there must be a cessation of hostilities” by Friday. Toner blamed Russia for the impasse, condemning it for “unacceptable” attacks on hospitals and civilians. Russia must exert influence with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to halt its ground offensives, Toner said. Russia says it is targeting terrorists, not civilians.