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Kerry calls for war crimes investigation against Russia, Syria

John Kerry's calls come as Russian parliament ratifies indefinite deployment of its air force in Syria
US State Department accused of backtracking on its announcement of breaking cooperation with Moscow (AFP)

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday called for Russia and Syria to face a war crimes investigation for their attacks on Syrian civilians.

Kerry’s calls also come as Russia’s parliament on Friday ratified the indefinite deployment of its air force in Syria. Russians will now be permanently based in Syria's western city of Latakia. 

In a news conference in Washington on Friday morning, Kerry said that Syrian forces had struck another hospital overnight, killing 20 people and wounding 100.

“[Such acts] beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes,” Kerry said.

He also said that Russia and Syria owed the world “more than an explanation” about the continuous targeting of hospitals, and that there was a “targeted strategy to terrorise civilians” in Syria. 

Earlier this week, the US State Department announced a suspension in “bilateral channels with Russia” relating to finding a way to resolve the Syrian civil war.

Foreign Policy magazine, however, revealed that less than 48 hours after the suspension of relations was announced, Kerry had discussed the situation in Syria with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

The Wednesday phone call between the two diplomats was first disclosed by the Russian Foreign Ministry. This raised immediate concerns about whether Washington was backtracking on threats to cut ties with Moscow.

The State Department acknowledged that the phone call took place, with department spokesman Mark Toner describing cutting all contact with Moscow as being “irresponsible”.

Staffan De Mistura, the UN's envoy for Syria on Thursday also warned that Aleppo would face "total destruction" by 2020. 

In a news conference in Geneva, De Mistura called on fighters belonging to the former al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham to leave Aleppo, saying that he would personally accompany the militants to guarantee their safety. 

The UN Security Council on Saturday will vote on a Russian-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire in Aleppo that makes no mention of ending military flights over the city.

The 15-member council will decide on that measure immediately after they vote on a French-drafted resolution that calls for an end to the aerial bombardment of Aleppo, diplomats said.

The Russian text obtained by AFP on Friday "urges immediate implementation of the cessation of hostilities, in particular in Aleppo", and demands that all parties allow deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The measure was presented to the council after Moscow signaled that it was ready to use its veto to block the French-drafted text.

The Security Council on Friday met in emergency session at Russia's request to hear De Mistura outline proposals to allow Fateh al-Sham militants to leave Aleppo.

The Russian-drafted text welcomes the envoy's initiative and calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to present a detailed plan that could be endorsed by the Security Council.