Lavrov: US easing restrictions on arms to Syria won’t seriously affect situation in East Aleppo
The US’ decision to ease restrictions on military aid for foreign forces and other fighters supporting the US in Syria is unlikely to affect the situation in eastern Aleppo, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at an OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg.
“I don’t think this will significantly change the situation in eastern Aleppo, because the rebels are encircled and they are unlikely to receive reinforcing,” Lavrov said.
Russia is looking for a solution that involves as few casualties as possible, Lavrov said.
“I think everyone understands that the militants in east Aleppo are agonizing. We don’t want to support those who would gladly finish off those militants at any cost without any talks. We are ready to solve these problems in a way that would spare us additional casualties and destruction,” Lavrov explained.
On Thursday, the Syrian Army put its active combat operations in eastern Aleppo on hold to evacuate some 8,000 civilians, Lavrov said earlier.
“I didn’t say that the combat actions ended. I said they were suspended for a certain period so that civilians could leave the area… After the humanitarian pause, the military operation will continue until the militants leave eastern Aleppo,” Lavrov noted on Friday, when asked about Thursday’s statement.
On Friday, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria reported that, in the last 24 hours, 10,724 civilians have fled areas of eastern Aleppo controlled by the militants, including 4,015 children. Meanwhile, 30 militants surrendered and were granted amnesty.
Lavrov added, that from the point of view of the developments in Syria, “resupplying the Syrian opposition [with weapons] is a big risk, as in the majority of cases the weapons that the so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian opposition receive end up in the hands of the terrorists – ISIS or Al-Nusra Front.”
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama granted a waiver of the restrictions on the delivery of military aid to “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals,” if those forces are supporting the US’ alleged counter-terrorism efforts in Syria.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov believes that the prospect of terrorists coming into possession of those weapons, including MANPADs (man-portable anti-air missiles), “poses a serious threat not only for the region, but the entire world.” The US’ decision will “definitely” create a risk for the Russian Air Force, Peskov said.
The decision will affect the discussions between the US and Russia on Syria, the Russian foreign minister stressed.
“This will affect our talks, as this is yet another peculiarity of US foreign policy concerning Aleppo,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov added that he is hopeful about the upcoming talks on Syria in Geneva, saying there’s a good chance that an agreement can be reached regarding eastern Aleppo, provided that experts from the US actually show up in Switzerland.
“If US experts don’t change their minds again, like they did several days ago, and don’t put any new suggestions on the table, the chance is high that we will come up with a plan on how to settle the situation in eastern Aleppo by withdrawing all militants, without any exceptions,” he said.