US likely to use Nusra terrorists to topple Syria’s Assad: Russia

Press TV — June 16, 2016

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Click to enlarge

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States is likely seeking to preserve the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front terrorist group as a tool to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Lavrov made the remarks at the meeting of a panel discussion on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 (SPIEF 2016) on Thursday.

Russia has long insisted that the so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria, supported by the US, should leave the areas held by Nusra militants. However, Washington has asked Moscow not to conduct airstrikes against the Nusra Front.

Lavrov said the US claims to be unable to pull the opposition groups out of the territories controlled by terrorists.

“I have the impression that some game is being played here and they want perhaps to preserve al-Nusra in some form and then use it to overthrow” the government of Assad, he added.

Elsewhere in his comments, the top Russian diplomat noted that communication is underway between Russia’s and US militaries, with daily video conferences between the Russian Hmeimim base in Syria and the US-led coalition command based in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

“A round-the-clock joint Russian-US center was set up in Geneva for rapid response to violations of the regime of the cessation of hostilities. By the way, all these channels operate in a rather business-like manner, and there are no hysterics there, in contrast to the public space where, forgive me for being rude, we are being chastised,” he said.

The nation-wide ceasefire, brokered by Moscow and Washington, was introduced in Syria in February in a bid to facilitate dialogue between rival parties in the country. Daesh and al-Nusra Front terrorist groups were excluded from the truce.

Washington, along with some of its allies, has been conducting air raids against alleged Daesh positions in Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from Damascus or the UN. The strikes have failed to disband the extremists.

Russia launched an air campaign against Daesh and other terrorist groups last September upon a request by the Damascus government.

Furthermore, the Russian foreign minister said he was stunned by US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent remarks on Washington’s “limited” patience regarding the settlement process in Syria and Assad’s fate.

“I’ve seen this statement and was surprised. John [Kerry] usually [acts] as a self-restrained politician. I don’t even know what happened,” Lavrov said.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-sponsored militancy since March 2011. Damascus says Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces.

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