Middle East

US criticizes Russia over civilian deaths in Syria

A woman walks past damaged shops in the rebel-controlled area of Maaret al-Numan town in Idlib province, Syria, December 29, 2015. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

WASHINGTON: The U.S. is criticizing Russia for killing hundreds of civilians in Syria and accusing it of undermining hopes for a cease-fire between Bashar Assad's government and leading rebel groups.

The surprisingly sharp critique comes as Washington banks on Moscow's support to begin a Syrian peace process that would allow both countries to focus on defeating the Islamic State. Negotiations between Assad's representatives and an opposition delegation are expected to start next month.

However, the U.S. isn't happy with how Russia has conducted airstrikes in Syria since September.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says reports are "extremely disturbing." Last week Amnesty International cited Russian use of cluster munitions and unguided bombs.

Officials say Secretary of State John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week to share his concerns.





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