Russia warns US over Syria’s territorial integrity
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Jan. 15 that the formation of a zone controlled by U.S.-backed militants could lead to the partition of Syria.
“The [U.S.] actions that we have been observing indicate that the U.S. does not want to keep Syria as a state in its current borders ... The U.S. wants to help the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to set up some border security zones,” he said at an annual press conference in Moscow, referring to a U.S.-backed rebel alliance dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
“There is a fear that they are pursuing a policy to cut Syria into several pieces,” he said.
Russia started to withdraw its forces from Syria last month, but Moscow has said it would keep its Hmeymim air base in Syria’s Latakia Province as well as its naval facility at Tartous “on a permanent basis.”
The U.S.’s “unilateral” army plan may harm Turkey’s ties with Kurds and hinder normalization in Afrin, Syria, Lavrov said.
“The U.S.’ unilateral, ultimatum-like project, aimed at establishing an army in Syria, may create problems in relations between Turkey and Kurds,” the minister said.
Lavrov also said the U.S. move “would not calm the situation” in Syria’s Afrin district, which borders Turkey, adding that Russia expects Washington to explain its move.
Moscow hopes that Turkey will speed up work on setting up observation points in Syria’s Idlib, he also said, adding to a deal with Ankara to de-escalate the fight in the war-torn country’s north.
On Jan. 14, the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) announced that it would establish a 30,000-strong new border security force with the U.S.-backed SDF.
“The coalition is working jointly with the SDF to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF),” Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, officially known as the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), said in a written statement to Anadolu Agency.
There are approximately 230 individuals currently training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” he added.
Lavrov also said Moscow will not support attempts by Washington to modify the Iran nuclear deal.
Lavrov spoke days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would waive nuclear sanctions against Iran for the last time to give Washington and its European allies a chance to fix the “terrible flaws” of the 2015 nuclear deal.
“We will not support what the United States is trying to do, changing the wording of the agreement, incorporating things that will be absolutely unacceptable for Iran,” Lavrov said.