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Syrian official: IS would have been defeated fast without support from Ankara and Riyadh

February 25, 16:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Syrian presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban said Syrian forces regained control over its border with Turkey only after Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces started its military operation in the country
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© AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

MOSCOW, February 25. /TASS/. Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s support for the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization complicates fighting terrorism in the region, Syrian presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban said on Thursday.

"First of all, it is necessary for regional parties, in particular Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to stop supporting terrorist groups. If they had not supported them, it would not have been so hard to defeat IS. But IS continue to get money, resources, assistance from these countries," she said noting that IS "does not exist in the vacuum."

Shaaban said that Syrian forces regained control over its border with Turkey only after Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces started its military operation in the country. "That is why Turkey started to attack us directly. Russian help from air is very important for the Syrian army," she noted.

The adviser said the situation is further complicated by political support of opposition by US and other Western countries. The political settlement in Syria was not possible for the last five years because "any opposition party belongs to a certain region and is financed by certain countries," she added. "It is the only opposition in the world that is in fact a foreign agent," she went on noting that several forces use the term "moderate opposition" to pursue their own political goals.

On Monday night Russia and the United States released a joint statement saying that the ceasefire will take effect in Syria at 00:00 Damascus Time on February 27.

"The United States of America and the Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations, are fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict and establish conditions for a successful Syrian-led political transition process, facilitated by the UN," the joint statement of the United States and Russia said.

The statement points out that the cessation of hostilities is to be applied to all parties to the Syrian conflict but for Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State) and Jebhat an-Nusra (both are banned in Russia) "or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council."

Russia's military operation in Syria

Russia’s Aerospace Force started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015. The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia. On October 7, Moscow also involved the Russian Navy in the military operation. Four missile ships of the Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria.

Since 2014, the US-led coalition has also been delivering air strikes against militants in Syria and Iraq.

In mid-November, after an alleged terrorist attack on Russian passenger jet that fell in Egypt killing 224 people on board, Moscow increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria by several dozen and involved strategic bombers in the strikes as well. Targets of the Russian aircraft include terrorists’ gasoline tankers and oil refineries. Russia’s aircraft have made thousands of sorties since the start of the operation in Syria, with over a hundred of them performed by long-range aircraft.

On November 24, a Turkish F-16 fighter brought down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber involved in Moscow’s military operation against the Islamic State (a terrorist group outlawed in Russia).  Ankara claimed the warplane violated the Turkey’s airspace. The Russian Defense Ministry said the warplane was flying over Syrian territory without violating Turkey’s airspace. The Russian president referred to the attack as a “stab in Russia’s back” and promised that the move would cause response action from Russia. Moscow deployed new S-400 air defense systems in Syria in order to protect the warplanes involved in the military operation and started arming the fighters intended to provide air support to bombers and attack aircraft in Syria with air-to-air missiles.

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