Lavrov: West will be ‘Al-Nusra accomplice’ if it fails to separate Syrian rebels from terrorists

If the West fails to exert pressure on opposition groups in Syria and force them to separate from Al-Nusra Front, this will make them “accomplices” of terrorists, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said.

“The fact that not only [United Nations Special Envoy for Syria] Steffan de Mistura but also Western media now say that it is Jabhat Al-Nusra [Al-Nusra Front] which attacks government positions in the south-western part of Aleppo proves that no one can turn a blind eye anymore,” Lavrov said at a news briefing in Moscow on Monday.

“We call on our international partners, you have influence over opposition groups to ask them to separate from Al-Nusra. If this does not happen, they are making themselves accomplices of Al-Nusra,” he added.

On Sunday, de Mistura said he is “appalled and shocked by the high number of rockets indiscriminately launched by armed opposition groups” that have killed scores of civilians in Aleppo over the last 48 hours.

According to a statement released by the UN special envoy for Syria’s office, “credible reports quoting sources on the ground indicate that scores of civilians in west Aleppo have been killed, including children, and hundreds wounded due to relentless and indiscriminate attacks from armed opposition groups.”

“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate, indiscriminate [attacks], including heavy weapons on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes,” the envoy said.

“The civilians of both sides of Aleppo have suffered enough due to futile but lethal attempts of subduing the city of Aleppo,” de Mistura said, adding that they now “need and deserve a stable ceasefire covering this ancient city of Syria.”

More than 16,000 people have fallen victim to opposition groups in Syria, Russia's Permanent Mission to the UN said in a statement last week.

“From February to September the opposition groups that are supposed to be under the US control committed 2,031 violations of the [cessation of hostilities], which claimed lives of 3,532 military personnel and 12,800 civilians,” read the mission’s statement, published on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday. 

The mission stated that while Moscow fulfilled its part of the bargain and negotiated with the Syrian authorities to make the cessation of hostilities possible, Washington failed to deliver on its promise to negotiate the same with the US-backed ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition.

“Russia guaranteed the implementation of the [cessation of hostilities] by the Syrian government. The US on the other hand was not capable to insure the implementation of the [cessation of hostilities] by the armed groups.

“Furthermore, the US failed to fulfill their February promise to separate Al-Nusra Front from ‘moderate’ opposition,” the mission noted, adding that there are a number of other issues it regards as US failures in the combined efforts of the two states to bring peace to Syria. These include the failure to establish a valuable exchange of information about ceasefire violations, and the failure to facilitate humanitarian access to east Aleppo.

The armed conflict in Syria has been raging since March 2011. Government troops are confronting militants from different armed groups. Figures on the number of victims of the conflict differ – according to the UN, around 300,000 Syrians have been killed during the war.

Using data from the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies conducted its own investigation and announced the results at a press-conference on Friday. It estimated the number of Syrians killed to be around 105,000.

According to the large-scale study, 45,000 of those killed served in the Syrian Army and government-controlled militia, 24,000 were fighters from local militant groups, and 36,000 were civilians. Some 18,000 of those killed in Syria were foreign mercenaries of terrorist groups operating in the country (citizens of over 80 different countries), the study found.