US backs those who want to use terrorists against Assad – Lavrov
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke on the phone with his US counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, who expressed concern over Russian support to the Syrian leader.
“Kerry was also pushing the very strange idea that supporting Bashar Assad in his anti-terror fight only strengthens the positions of ISIS, because the sponsors of ISIS would pump even more arms and money into it,” Lavrov said.
“It's an absolutely upside-down logic and yet another attempt to appease those who use terrorists to fight dissenting regimes,” the Russian FM said, mentioning US attempts to cooperate with varrious extremist groups in Syria over the past few years.
“It's a colossal mistake that the US-led [anti-ISIS] coalition never considered interaction with Syria, not even information exchange,” Lavrov said. “I cannot comprehend this logic, or rather absolute lack of logic.”
“We help not only Syria, we also provide weapons to Iraq and other countries of the region that find themselves on the frontline with the terror threat. Equally for Iraq and other countries, we do so without any political preconditions,” Lavrov said.
Earlier this week, the US State Department shared its concerns about allegations of a Russian military buildup in Syria.
In the statement, Kerry said that the US was concerned “about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian buildup there.”
Russia's flights with humanitarian aid to Syria also carry military equipment, and Russian military personnel are present in Syria because of the deliveries of weapons to the Syrian Army - all under old contracts, Lavrov said.
Russian weapons are only being delivered to Syria to fight terrorism, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said Thursday. Guarantees against using the arms for other purposes "are provided in the two-way contracts, agreements and obligations that are struck between the two sides," Zakharova said at a press briefing.
"I can assure you that we are pursuing no other goal except fighting international terrorism by providing military and technical aid to Damascus," she added.
Russia believes that the Syrian Army is the only force that can effectively counteract Islamic State, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Thursday.
“There is simply no other organized and competent force out there that can resist the advance of ISIS,” Peskov said.
“Naturally, Russia sees its task in providing support to the Syrian authorities in battling this dangerous phenomenon, ISIS,” he added.
Washington has been striving to oust President Assad for years now. To achieve their goal, the US is advocating a ban on all kinds of help to the Syrian government, with the country remaining in a state of a civil war since February 2011.
Troops loyal to Assad are battling a number of enemies, most powerful of which are Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al Nusra Front. Only two states, Russia and Iran, support the Syrian government internationally, while all of the Arab world and particularly the Persian Gulf monarchies are backing what they call “moderate” Syrian rebel forces.
It's estimated that 220,000 people have died during the conflict, which has been going on for over four years.