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Russian diplomat slams Washington’s Syria strategy as ploy to dismember country

Zakharova warned that any delay in restoring the unity of Syrian society was fraught with more dangerous challenges

MOSCOW, January 25. /TASS/. Washington’s new strategy for Syria is aimed at dismembering that country, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Thursday.

"In the wake of US Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson’s] speech at Stanford and reports from US military sources about the creation of some armed groups under US patronage to guard the border in northern Syria, populated mostly by Kurds, the new US strategy looks like nothing more than a policy of dismembering that country," Zakharova said.

She went on to say that Moscow had closely studied Tillerson’s January 17 statement at Stanford University, in which he laid out Washington’s vision of the current situation in Syria and ways of settling the conflict in that Arab country.

"As before, the Americans say the ousting of Syria’s legally elected president is their goal. It has been declared that Washington intends to make its military presence on the soil of that sovereign state open-ended."

Moscow is certain, Zakharova said, it would be impermissible to turn Syria into a scene of confrontation between external forces, each pursuing its own aims.

"The Syrians themselves are entitled to determining the future of their country. We do hope that the forthcoming forum in Sochi will be an important step along this way," she stated.

Zakharova warned that any delay in restoring the unity of Syrian society was fraught with more dangerous challenges.

"This is precisely what is happening in the area of Syria’s Afrin, where the Turkish army and Syrian opposition groups are conducting a military operation. As is known, Turkey presents this as a response to the threats to its own security, which emerged in the north of Syria in an area beyond the control of that country’s government," she said.

Turkey’s General Staff on January 20 declared the start of an operation codenamed Olive Branch against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union Party in Afrin, which is home to about 1.5 million Kurds and refugees from other areas of Syria. Ankara said one of the operation’s tasks was creation of a 30-kilometer buffer zone in the north of Syria. The United States earlier said it was aware of Turkey’s concerns over the terrorist threat, but at the same time called for restraint. US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed that issue in a telephone conversation on Wednesday.