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Russia’s Points of Concern over U.S. Syria Policy

Dec. 5, 2017 (EIRNS)—In a dialogue with media during the Dec. 1 Mediterranean Dialogues international conference in Rome, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized two particular points of concern over current U.S. policy and actions in Syria which he said Russia is discussing with the United States directly.

First, Washington may be veering away from the commitment made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and others that the only U.S. goal in Syria is to defeat ISIS, with talk of staying militarily in Syria "for a year and a half or two years to see that ISIS does not return."

In Russia’s view,

"when the war against ISIS is over, all the foreign troops that have not been invited there by the legitimate government of a UN member state and those that have not been deployed in keeping with a UNSC resolution (because no resolution has been adopted to this effect), will be obliged to pull out of the country,"

Lavrov said.

Second, the United States’s unilateral establishment of a 50-km safety zone around al-Tanf, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan, is a possible attempt to split Syria.

"The remaining ISIS terrorists regularly enter the Rukban refugee camp in this unilaterally established safety zone. We raise this matter in our contact with the United States,"

he said.

"I hope that it will eventually accept the arguments, which we provided through our military experts, that there is no need for this zone, unless the Americans want to split Syria and create in some of its parts pro-American local governments that would be autonomous from the central government. If the United States has no such plans, I hope we will settle this problem."

Overall, Lavrov bluntly reiterated that the current crisis of migration, arms trafficking and terrorism in this region is a result of the overthrow and killing of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi.

"We have to be careful ... not to allow anyone to make similar mistakes in the future: destroy entire countries for the sake of dubious perspectives, impose one’s own way of life on peoples who have their own cultures, their own traditions. I think this is irresponsible. We don’t want to see another region turn into a china shop where all the china is broken."

In discussing Russia’s goal of helping to restore "peace, stability, conditions for development and openness to the external world" in this region, Lavrov cited Russia’s hope of ensuring that "the age-old traditions of various ethnic and confessional groups living side by side" be restored.

President Vladimir Putin also emphasized this concern in his meeting on Monday with heads of local Orthodox churches. He raised, among other matters, religious persecution such as the brutality of the terrorists against Christians in Syria. Russia will give assistance to Christians in rebuilding their churches, Putin added.

"We will also help representatives of other religions, including Muslims, who, as we know, have also suffered at the hands of militants, terrorists and extremists. We will also help Judaists. Some Jewish organizations have already asked us to help restore the Judaist temples,"

he said.