MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. Russia calls on the US not to play with fire in Syria and measure its steps proceeding from the interests of the Syrian people and the region as a whole, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday at the opening of the Valdai Discussion Club’s conference dubbed "Russia in the Middle East: Playing on All Fields."
When the issue concerns the need to preserve Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, "we cannot but observe with concern attempts to disintegrate Syria," he said. "Such concerns arise after studying the plans which the US is starting to implement on soil, chiefly east of the Euphrates, on the vast territories between this river and Syria’s borders with Iraq and Turkey. It seems that our American counterparts’ pledges that their sole goal in Syria is the war on ISIS (a former name of Islamic State, a terror organization that is outlawed in Russia - TASS) and preserving the territorial integrity need to be confirmed with specific actions. I once again call on our American colleagues not to play with fire and measure their steps proceeding not from immediate needs of today’s political environment, but rather from long-term interests of the Syrian people and of all peoples of this region, including the Kurds, of course, be it Syria or Iraq or other countries of the region," the diplomat said.
He noted that the US made provocative steps in Syria. "That said, they involved the units of the Kurdish Democratic Union party in their position to undermine Syria’s territorial integrity, in fact, which led to an escalation of tensions with Turkey, and you know what is now going on in Afrin (Turkey is carrying out Operation Olive Branch in the region against the Kurdish troops - TASS)," Lavrov said.
More and more evidence obtained by Russia confirms that the United States does not want to fight the Jabhat al-Nusra terror group (outlawed in Russia), Lavrov said.
"We have more and more evidence, which makes it possible to doubt that our Western counterparts in the US-led coalition are ready to fight Jabhat al-Nusra in earnest, despite the fact that it has been added to all resolutions and has been designated as a terrorist organization by the UN Security Council," the minister said.
According to Lavrov, the success of the Syrian settlement depends on how soon the US gives up attempts to divide Syria. "I believe that the success of the Syrian settlement depends not on what else Russia can do but, rather, on what the United States will not do. It would be better, if they stopped playing very dangerous games, which lead to the disintegration of the Syrian state," Russia’s top diplomat said.
"In the areas supervised by the US - east of the Euphrates and all the way to Syria’s state borders - they create authorities in such a way that they have no ties with Damascus providing them with assistance in various forms. All that can be a very serious problem from the point of view of compliance with the UN Security Council’s demands on ensuring Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Russia’s top diplomat drew attention to the al-Tanf US zone of influence created due to the United States’ unilateral and destructive steps. "The unilateral steps made by the United States, which declared the 55-kilometer area near al-Tanf its zone of influence is something we did not agree on," Lavrov said.
He added that the Rukban refugee camp is located close to it. "Visits by jihadists who recover moral and physical strength are regularly observed both inside the al-Tanf zone and in the Rukban camp. Attacks on the rest of the Syrian territory have been carried out from there more than once. This zone must be closed immediately, and access should be ensured to this refugee camp for humanitarian cargo."
Lavrov also pointed out that, while drawing attention to the situation in Idlib and East Ghouta, the UN humanitarian mission keeps quiet about the fact that the US cannot guarantee safety of UN convoys in the Rukban refugee camp. "Our UN counterparts are, for some reason, ashamed of saying that humanitarian convoys cannot get to that US-controlled area because of the lack of guarantees from the United States, we do have such information," Lavrov said. "Instead, attention is focused on the humanitarian situation in Idlib, East Ghouta, while the fact that the Syrian army’s actions in these areas are aimed against Jabhat al-Nusra is hidden."
"Jabhat al-Nusra miltants do not stop provocations. In particular, Damascus’ residential areas, including the Russian Embassy and trade mission, have been shelled from East Ghouta. For some reason, our Western partners prefer to make a fuss around these two areas - Idlib and East Ghouta - without citing the reasons for what is happening there. And the reason is Jabhat al-Nusra’s armed provocations," Lavrov added.
Moscow is watching Washington’s attempts to implement its plans to divide Syria with concern, according to Lavrov.
"We cannot fail to watch with concern attempts to divide Syria," the minister said. "Such fears arise when we get acquainted with the plans the United States is beginning to implement on the ground, primarily, east of the Euphrates, in vast areas between that river and Syria’s external borders with Iraq and Turkey."
According to Lavrov, the Americans’ assurances that Washington’s only objective in Syria is the war on terror run counter to the real US actions in Syria. "I believe that statements by our American counterparts that their only objective in Syria is fighting the Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia - TASS) and preserving [Syria’s] territorial integrity must be confirmed by specific deeds," the minister said.