Barack Obama ‘Not Optimistic’ On Syria As Aleppo Pummelled

DAMASCUS, SYRIA: US President Barack Obama said he is “not optimistic” about Syria’s future, as the UN warned time is running out to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo which has been pounded by air strikes for nearly a week.

Barack Obama 'Not Optimistic' On Syria As Aleppo Pummelled

More than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began

Government forces launched a ferocious assault last Tuesday to recapture eastern Aleppo, killing 115 civilians so far. In fresh fighting on Sunday at least eight children died when rebel rocket fire hit their school in the government-controlled west.

Obama warned that Syria’s second city was likely to fall, and that Russian and Iranian backing for Syrian leader Bashar al Assad had made the situation untenable for the opposition.

“I am not optimistic about the short-term prospects in Syria,” he said Sunday at a summit of Pacific leaders in Lima.

“Once Russia and Iran made a decision to back Assad in a brutal air campaign… it was very hard to see a way in which even a trained and committed moderate opposition could hold its ground for long periods of time.”

Obama earlier Sunday urged greater efforts to end the violence when he met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

But in Damascus, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was rebuffed on a truce proposal that would allow the opposition to administer the city’s rebel-held east.

“We are running out of time, we are running against time,” de Mistura said after meeting Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

Muallem said he had rejected the proposal, under which jihadist forces would leave and the government would recognise the opposition administration in the east which has been bombarded by air strikes, barrel bombs and artillery.

“How is it possible that the UN wants to reward terrorists?” he asked.

Aid agencies fear that instead of a humanitarian or a political initiative there will be “an acceleration of military activities” in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere, de Mistura told journalists.

“By Christmas… due to military intensification, you will have the virtual collapse of what is left in eastern Aleppo; you may have 200,000 people moving towards Turkey — that would be a humanitarian catastrophe.”

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