Key clings to Syria ceasefire as fighting intensifies

 A Syrian man carries his son to a field hospital after Syrian and Russian army carried out an airstrike (Getty(
A Syrian man carries his son to a field hospital after Syrian and Russian army carried out an airstrike (Getty(

Prime Minister John Key says the ceasefire in Syria is still holding, despite a weekend of heavy bombing and fighting in Aleppo.

His optimism isn't shared by other world leaders, with Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin saying peace now is "an impossible task" and his US counterpart Samantha Power accusing Russia and the Syrian government of "barbarism".

The ceasefire between rebel and government fighters was called to let aid and supplies in, but it ended badly when an aid convoy was hit in an airstrike. The US says Russia and Syria were behind the attack.

The US hasn't been blameless either, bombing a Syrian government position when they were meant to be hitting Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) targets.

Hundreds of airstrikes by Syrian government forces rained down in eastern Aleppo over the weekend, killing more than 100 people according to volunteer medical service Syria Civil Defense. Strikes on Friday left dozens of children were trapped in the rubble, according to the rebel-aligned Aleppo Media Center.

But speaking to Paul Henry on Monday morning, Mr Key said while all the previous attempts at ceasefires have failed, this one "hasn't broken down yet".

"If you don't get a ceasefire there, what you've really got is potentially a failed state - a place where terrorists could be bred and exported in very large numbers."

The rebels looked on course for victory until Russia stepped in last year to back their ally, President Bashir al-Assad. Mr Key says Russia's motives are closely intertwined with those of its leader, President Vladimir Putin.

"He wants to prove to the world, 'I have influence way beyond the economic power of Russia - you want to fix world problems, you come to Moscow and I resolve it.'

"What he probably wants to do is have a ceasefire alright, and theoretically they can still point their guns at ISIS, but he what he really wants to do is continue to weaken his opposition."

Mr Key led a meeting of the UN's Security Council last week, where he blasted the international community for failing to end the brutal war.

Efforts to end it are complicated by the fact it's not just the rebels and the government fighting - both sides are also fending off attacks from Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and IS.

"ISIS is getting out of Iraq," says Mr Key. "We met with the Iraqi Prime Minister and he was much more upbeat than we've seen before. He said 'you guys have done a great job training our people'. ISIS is getting pushed out, but unfortunately into Syria."