Efforts are under way in Munich to agree a cessation of hostilities and encourage urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged areas all over Syria. A crunch meeting of countries trying to find an end to the conflict followed a stark warning from Russia that wider military intervention could spark “a new world war”.
Dimitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, was quoted telling Germany’s Handelsblatt daily: “The Americans and our Arab partners must think hard about this – do they want a permanent war? All sides must be forced to the negotiating table instead of sparking a new world war.”
Medvedev was apparently responding to suggestions that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states might join the US-led campaign against Islamic State in Syria.
However, the US accused Russia of worsening the brutal conflict with its military action in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
“It has been Russian support for the Assad regime over the past months, and most recently in the siege on Aleppo, that has exacerbated, intensified the conflict,” state department deputy spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. In response to a question about Medvedev’s “world war” warning, Toner said: “If that is Russia’s concern, then they should look at what they’re doing to support the Assad regime.”