All news

Moscow to take steps if Islamic State moves from Mosul to Syria — Lavrov

The Russian top diplomat hopes pause near Aleppo will help separate terrorists from opposition

MOSCOW, October 18. /TASS/. Moscow will take military measures should militants of the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia as a terrorist organization - TASS) move from Mosul to Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

"Mosul is a large city with a civilian population of 1.5 million, if not more," Lavrov said. "We keep an eye on this operation, of course, because all of us are interested in defeating the so-called Islamic State."

"The city is surrounded, but not completely. I do not know why. Possibly, they’ve just failed," Lavrov said. "It is to be hoped they just failed, and not were reluctant to do so."

"Anyway, the remaining corridor is fraught with the risk the Islamic State may move from Iraq’s Mosul to Syria," he said. "Of course, we will keep an eye on the situation and take both political and military decisions, if that happens, if in Syria, where our military group is present at the request of the legitimate government, there will emerge more Islamic State contingents."

"The operation will not be an easy one. It envisages, like in Aleppo, airstrikes and actions of land forces, and there are a lot of land forces there. And it is of major importance for the regional layout that there is rivalry there about whose land forces will take Mosul," he said.

According to the Russian top diplomat, it is yet unclear whether the Iraqi army’s Shia units are taking part in this operation and what is the role of the Kurd militias and Turkey. "As you know, Turkish troops are deployed there and the Iraqi government is protesting against that," Lavrov noted.

"Moreover, there are 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq who are referred to by Washington as ‘advisers.’ Anyway, 5,000 ‘advisers’ are a big force," he said.

Moscow hopes that "the US-led coalition involved in the operation to storm Mosul will pay attention to this."

"According to some estimates made by UN representatives in Geneva and New York, the number of refugees from among civilians may vary in a broad range - from 200,000 to almost half a million people, 900,000 people," the foreign minister said.

"No adequate capacities exist either in Iraq or neighboring Syria or other neighboring countries to receive such a number of refugees," Lavrov said.

"I hope that all this has been calculated by those who prepared the operation. But still a lot of questions remain," the Russian foreign minister said.

Pause near Aleppo

The minister went on to say that the humanitarian pause in the Aleppo area has been initiated in the hope that it may help separate the opposition from the terrorists.

"The halt in the airstrikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces and the Syrian Air Force has come into effect, this is an act of goodwill in the hope that the pause will be employed to finally separate the armed groups supported and armed by the US, some EU members and countries of the region, from Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist group outlawed in Russia) and other groups of this kind," Lavrov explained.

Suspension of flights by the Russian aircraft and the Syrian air force comes into force, it is goodwill gesture, the minister added. 

The Russian top diplomat noted that the separation could be conducted in various ways. "Jabhat al-Nusra could be just driven out, we are sure to uphold such an approach. This is what (the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria) Staffan de Mistura’s plan stipulates," Lavrov pointed out. "But those who don’t consider themselves allied to these terrorists should certainly sign an agreement to cease hostilities according to the Russian-US agreements and the UN Security Council’s resolutions adopted in support of these agreements."

Lausanne format

According to Lavrov, expert work to separate terrorists from the opposition near Aleppo has been agreed at a meeting in Lausanne, first contacts will take place in Geneva on October 19.

"When we met with the foreign ministers of a number of regional countries in Lausanne last Saturday, we agreed that we would begin the work of military experts in Geneva to separate the so-called moderate opposition from the Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist group outlawed in Russia - TASS)", he said.

Lavorv added that, in accordance with the Lausanne agreements, the first meeting of military experts will be held on October 19.

Russia’s top diplomat added that the West had been promising Moscow to separate terrorists from the opposition since February, but nothing has been done under various pretexts. "We already began to doubt whether this attitude by our Western colleagues stems from a desire to shield Jabhat al-Nusra from strikes and then try to use it to overthrow the Assad regime, despite all the statements that there are no such plans and notwithstanding the decisions we all passed at the UN Security Council," Lavrov added.