France is calling on the United States to share details of a deal it struck with Russia on Syria, saying the information—pertaining to a temporary cease-fire followed by joint airstrikes on militants—crucial to ensure extremists and not mainstream rebels are targeted. However, Washington refuses, with a State Department spokesperson saying there are “legitimate concerns” that releasing the details could derail a plan.
"The Russians cannot unilaterally continue to bomb saying that they are only striking terrorist groups," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said during a visit to Ukraine in remarks confirmed by his entourage.
He added that while his government has not yet received all the details of this deal, France does know that it contains provisions so that the United States and Russia “can check exactly location by location on a map where the terrorists we need to strike are located."
However, Ayrault warned that Paris was concerned about hits being directed at anti-government forces other than the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State group.
“At one point we're going to be asked to support in greater detail this Russo-U.S. plan, so to do that we will need to have all the information," Ayrault said during a visit to Ukraine.
France is a member of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, which has been bombing Syria since Sept. 2014.
Responding to the French demand, U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said his government had shared details with the other members of the International Syria Support Group, which includes more than 20 nations, including France, the United Nations and the European Union. The group is co-chaired by Russia and the U.S.
However, he rejected the idea of releasing and making the text of the deal public, saying it contained sensitive information that might hurt the chances of the success of the cease-fire.
“There is a concern that we still have about making the document itself, the document itself is built on other documents from previous negotiations,” Kirby said in an interview with the BBC on Thursday. “There are some issues and I think legitimate issues of making these information public. Because there are parameters and there are specific there are basic details that we do not feel would be helpful to make public in terms of the ultimate success itself.”
Under the deal, the U.S. and Russia are aiming for reduced violence over seven consecutive days before they move to the next stage of coordinating military strikes against the former Nusra Front and Islamic State group, which are not party to the truce.
Meanwhile U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton voiced her support for the largely-secret deal Thursday, saying that its long-term success would depend on the Russians keeping their end of the deal.
"Whether or not this works is really up to the Russians," Clinton told reporters after addressing a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina.
"It is up to whether or not Vladimir Putin decides that it's time to do what the Russians can do to bring this conflict into a period where there can be the beginning of political discussions, a hoped-for protective zone for people who are under relentless assault from the air, and a commitment to going after the terrorist groups that pose a threat to everyone."
Meanwhile, two convoys of aid for the Syrian city of Aleppo were waiting in no-man's land on Wednesday after crossing the Turkish border, held up by security fears and disagreements between combatants on the third day of a cease-fire.
The U.N. has estimated that well over half a million people are living under siege in Syria, while independent monitor Siege Watch says that number actually exceeds 1 million. The five-year-long civil war in Syria has left more than 400,000 people dead and more than 11 million people displaced.