Anti-ISIL coalition slams Russia on Syria raids
ANKARA / NEW YORKRussia continued air strikes for a third day on Oct. 2, prompting Turkey and its partners in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to demand that Moscow cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and focus on fighting Islamic militants.
The statement came hours before the diplomatic discussions surrounding the attacks heated up with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaking to his Russian counterpart on the phone.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accused Russia on Oct. 2 of targeting moderate Syrian rebels in its air strikes in Syria to prop up the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking to Turkish reporters on his plane as he returned from the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Davutoğlu rejected Moscow’s insistence that its campaign of air strikes launched this week was aimed at ISIL.
“The outcome is very worrisome,” Davutoğlu was quoted as saying in several Turkish dailies, including Hurriyet and Milliyet.
Russia, however, said it had bombed the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa for the first time on the third day of its campaign.
In a joint statement with the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Gulf Arab allies, Turkey said on its Foreign Ministry’s website that Russia’s actions constituted a “further escalation” of the conflict and would only fuel more extremism.
“We, the governments of France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America state the following in view of the recent military actions of the Russian Federation in Syria: We express our deep concern with regard to the Russian military build-up in Syria and especially the attacks by the Russian Air Force on Hama, Homs and Idlib since yesterday which led to civilian casualties and did not target Da’esh,” they said, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadist organization.
“These military actions constitute a further escalation and will only fuel more extremism and radicalization. We call on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its attacks on the Syrian opposition and civilians and to focus its efforts on fighting ISIL,” they said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu met with Kerry in New York on Oct. 1 to discuss the Syria issue, according to Anadolu Agency.
Kerry told the press before the meeting that the country told Russia to focus on just ISIL.
The United States and Russia will hold a military meeting soon to avoid accidental conflict in Syria, Kerry said after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We agreed on the imperative of, as soon as possible … at having a military-to-military de-confliction discussion,” Kerry told reporters at a joint appearance with Lavrov.
Kerry said that, despite Washington’s concern over Russia’s support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and its choice of targets in its bombing campaign, the two men had developed ideas to push forward the political process there.
“We all want Syria to be democratic, united and secular – a Syria which is a home for all ethnic groups whose rights are guaranteed, but we have some differences as for the details on how to get there,” Lavrov said.
Kerry said both men would take the proposals they discussed back to their respective leaders, presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, and stay in touch while the two sides resolved their differences.
“We will follow up on that for certain because we also agreed that it is imperative it find a solution and avoid escalating it in any way and seeing it intensified by forces beyond control,” Kerry said.
The Pentagon held talks with officials in Moscow on Oct. 1 in a bid to avoid mishaps in the region between the two military powers.
Russia estimates its air strike campaign in Syria could last three to four months, the head of the foreign affairs committee at the State Duma, said Oct. 1.
Russia does not consider the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army rebels a terrorist group and they should be part of a political solution in Syria, Lavrov said Oct. 1.
He told a news conference at the United Nations that Russian troops were targeting ISIL and “other terrorist groups” in Syria and saw eye-to-eye with the U.S.-led coalition on this.