US playing with fire in Syria: Lavrov
The U.S. actions in Syria are aimed at partitioning the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov has said, accusing Washington of using the Kurdish forces to undermine Syria’s territorial integrity.
The Russian top diplomat urged Washington on Feb. 19 not to “play with fire” in Syria and carefully consider its steps based “not on immediate needs of today’s political situation, but rather from the long-term interests of the Syrian people and all the peoples of this region, including the Kurds.”
“It seems to me that the statements of our American colleagues that the only purpose is to fight ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] and preserve territorial integrity need to be confirmed by actions,” Lavrov said, when speaking on session of the International Discussion Club Valdai.
“Unfortunately, with all the statements about the need to unite efforts in the fight against this common evil [terrorism], there is still a desire to use this situation for geopolitical narrow-minded purposes and attempts continue to move away from truly collective work,” Lavrov said.
“The Kurds are being used in a game, which has no relation to their own interests,” Sputnik quoted Lavrov as saying.
The diplomat urged to refrain from exploiting the so-called “Kurdish factor.”
Lavrov that calls by unnamed members of the U.N. Security Council for the Syrian army to halt an offensive in Idlib province were designed to help Nusra Front, the RIA news agency reported.
Lavrov was cited as calling Nusra Front “a terrorist structure” and calling on Western countries to use what he said was their influence to discipline its members. If they did not, he said the group would be destroyed.
Heavy Syrian regime bombardment of rebel-held Eastern Ghouta killed at least 18 civilians on Feb. 19, a monitor said, as government forces appeared to prepare for a ground assault.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said air strikes battered the town of Hammuriyeh in Eastern Ghouta, leaving nine civilians dead.
Another nine, including a woman, were killed in air raids, artillery fire, and rockets that hit elsewhere in the enclave.
“The regime is bombing Eastern Ghouta to pave the way for a ground offensive,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Held by rebels since 2012, Eastern Ghouta is now the last opposition-controlled pocket around Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dispatched reinforcements there in recent weeks in an apparent bid to retake the region.
The Observatory and Syrian daily newspaper Al-Watan had said negotiations were under way for the evacuation of jihadists from the enclave.
But government forces ramped up military pressure on Eastern Ghouta starting Sunday, sending more than 260 rockets sailing onto opposition-controlled towns there.
The bombing continued on Feb. 19, sending terrified civilians in the enclave searching for cover, AFP’s correspondents said.