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Moscow suspects Jabhat al-Nusra could be used to topple Assad

March 29, 19:58 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to the diplomat, before Russia "the US coalition was very rarely hitting ISIL positions and almost never hitting the positions of Jabhat al-Nusra"

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© Alexander Scherbak/TASS

MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. Suspicions remain that the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group could be used to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with the US National Interest magazine.

According to the diplomat, before Russia "moved there with its air force, the US coalition was very rarely hitting ISIL positions and almost never hitting the positions of Jabhat al-Nusra, which many people believe has been spared just in case at some point they might be needed to topple the regime."

"This feeling, this suspicion, is still very much alive these days, when Jabhat al-Nusra already twice changed its name, but it never changed its sponsors who continue to pump money and whatever is necessary for fighting into this structure," Lavrov noted adding that "people know this."

The Russian top diplomat went on to say that "when Russia moved there, at the request of the government, we suggested to the US to coordinate our efforts."

"They said, 'No, we can only go for deconfliction,' and deconfliction procedures were developed and are being applied quite well, but we believed it was a shame that we couldn’t go further, and coordinate targets," Lavrov said.

'Staged terrorist attacks' 

 A number of external players have been encouraging radicals active in Syria to stage terrorist attacks, Sergey Lavrov has pointed out. 

According to the diplomat, the Astana and Geneva talks aimed at resolving the Syrian conflict are not "welcome by quite a number of external players who try to provoke and encourage the radicals, radical armed groups in Syria, to make trouble and to stage some terrorist attacks." "They launched a huge offensive now in the northern part of the Hama province, and they basically coordinate with Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group outlawed in Russia), under its new name," Lavrov added.

The Russian top diplomat said that "it’s also a game for the influence in Syria, unfortunately, which prevails in the minds of the people who promote such an approach, rather than the need to get united to fight terrorism, and then to have a political deal." "It’s the fight for influence on the battleground, and this is unfortunate. We don’t need this now," Lavrov noted.

The Russian foreign minister went on to say that "what we need is to strengthen the cessation of hostilities and to support strongly the political process in Geneva, concentrated on the new constitution, which would be accompanied by a division of power between the government, the opposition, all ethnic groups, then elections and so on and so forth." "But all this would be absolutely meaningless if people sacrifice the fight against terror for the sake of their goal, their obsession, with regime change," Lavrov stressed.

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