Putin’s initiative to create ‘united front’ to fight ISIS intrigues US, allies – Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov © Maksim Blinov
The US and its allies should cooperate with Syrian President Bashar Assad in fighting Islamic State, “a common enemy” of the international community, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview on Sunday.

“Our American partners and some countries in the region persistently refuse to recognize Assad as a partner, which is rather strange,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian state Television channel Rossiya 1, aired on Sunday. “Assad was a fully legitimate partner in destroying chemical arms but somehow he is not when it comes to fighting terrorism.”

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A coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS/ISIL), as planned by Russian President Vladimir Putin, would “bring together all those already fighting on the ground,” that is, the Syrian and Iraqi armies, the Kurds and “the part of the armed opposition that represents Syrians.”

“Instead of settling their scores with one another, first one must deal with the common threat, and then seek to agree on how to live in their own country,” Lavrov said, adding that there was “a lot of superficiality and a lot of speculations” regarding the role of the Syrian government in the conflict with IS.

He revealed that President Putin’s initiative was “two-trekked”, proposing both a coalition of people who fight Islamic State militants on the ground and the promotion of a “political process” in order to prevent the incitement of civil war in Syria.

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The foreign minister also recalled two recent meetings with his US counterpart John Kerry. He said he warned Kerry there was high risk that any fatal mistake in Syria could aggravate the conflict, to the point that nothing could control it. A much easier way, according to Lavrov, could be the negotiating table, but “the Americans are unfortunately not ready for it.”

“We simply suggest cleaning up our methods from double standards, from attempts to approach any situation in a volatile way and divide terrorists into bad and good categories,” Lavrov said, pointing out that “it won’t work out”.

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On Tuesday, Lavrov is to discuss Syria and IS with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow, according to RIA-Novosti. They will also dwell on "closer coordination on global energy markets".