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US playing 'very reckless’ games with Kurdish separatists in Syria, risks exploding entire Middle Eastern region – Russian FM

US playing 'very reckless’ games with Kurdish separatists in Syria, risks exploding entire Middle Eastern region – Russian FM
Washington must think beyond the upcoming US presidential vote and keep the future of the Middle East in mind when its encourages separatism in Syria’s Kurdish population, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned.

After almost a decade-long bloody civil war, peace has been restored on almost all Syrian territory, Lavrov said in a lengthy and exclusive interview with the Dubai-based broadcaster Al Arabiya. “The military confrontation between the government and the opposition is over,” he pointed out, adding that “only two hotbeds” now remain in the country.

The first one was northwestern Idlib province, where the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group is holed up. However, the territory that the militants control “is shrinking,” the minister said. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is a rebranding of the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda offshoot, which had been one the largest and most violent groups during the Syrian conflict.

And the second hotbed is the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, where the illegal presence of the American troops is combined with the Americans promoting separatist trends, playing with the Kurdish guard in a very reckless manner, I would say.

The Kurds are an ethnic group of over 40 million, who don’t have a national state of their own, and “if you try to encourage separatist trends, the region might explode,” Lavrov said.

The Kurdish militias were the US’ allies during an operation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), which Washington used as a pretext to deploy its troops to the Syrian territory. The US cooperation with the Kurds has strained its relations with Turkey, which has been fighting a Kurdish insurgency for decades and vigorously opposes any attempts to create an independent country.

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The actions of the US are a reason for major concern, not just for Turkey and Syria, but for other countries with large Kurdish populations, such as Iraq and Iran, the FM pointed out. One of the things that is creating what Lavrov described as “a very nervous situation” was Washington’s decision to start pumping oil on the Kurdish-held territories in complete disregard of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In August, a little-known US firm, Delta Crescent Energy LLC, signed a deal with the Kurds. 

I hope the Americans understand that they must think not only about the elections which are coming in a month and a half, but also the future of this region, which is one of the most important regions of the world.

Unlike the US, Russia has been legally helping Syria to fight terrorism, following an invitation from the Damascus government in September 2015. De-escalation of the conflict and achieving a peaceful settlement between the warring sides had also been a priority for Moscow.

The Emirati journalist asked Lavrov about possible civilian casualties during Russian operations in Syria, especially in the country’s last terrorist stronghold, Idlib, where terrorists are embedded among the population.

The diplomat assured him that neither Russia nor the Syrian government was currently conducting any military activity in the province. “The only time we use force is when attacked by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the force is used in a very targeted manner so as not to damage civilians and civilian sites.”

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Lavrov also rejected speculation that, due to Russia’s help, Damascus is counting on a military win against the opposition, instead of looking for a political solution. He said he hadn’t got that impression during recent talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, reminding viewers that the Constitutional Committee, a UN-backed body aimed at reconciling all sides in the Syrian conflict, recently resumed its work after a pause caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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