All Armed Groups in Eastern Parts of Aleppo Controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra: Lavrov

ROME- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that almost all armed groups in the Eastern parts of Aleppo are controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra.

"As I have already mentioned, according to our intelligence, practically all armed opposition groups in eastern Aleppo report to al-Nusra Front. Nusra has some 1,500 militants there, while other groups under its command have up to 6,000 militants," Lavrov stressed, according to Sputnik.

 During a joint press conference on Friday with his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni, Lavrov said the creation of the so-called "Army of Aleppo" in the eastern part of the city aimed to rebrand al-Nusra Front terrorists and shield them.

"I do not rule out that this is just another attempt to rebrand al-Nusra Front and shield it from righteous retaliation," he said.

Russia still supports the proposal by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura on the withdrawal of militants from Eastern Aleppo, Lavrov said.

"De Mistura proposed allowing all terrorists to leave Eastern Aleppo, we, despite the idea's controversy, supported it and were ready to cooperate with it," he said.

 "The idea was blocked by those who, we are convinced, are interested in Eastern Aleppo remaining under the control of terrorists. We are still ready for what de Mistura said," he said.

Speaking of the clearing of the Castello Road of mines, Lavrov said that "after the liberation of a considerable part of Eastern Aleppo, there are no more threats… of attacks on humanitarian convoys that will travel along that road."

Attempts to Keep Part of Syria Under Nusra Front Control Unacceptable

During the second edition of the Mediterranean Dialogues international conference in Rome, on Friday, December 2, lavrov said that attempts to keep a part of Syria under the control of the Al-Nusra Front are unacceptable.

"We have already compromised on some issues, as Staffan de Mistura has voiced a proposal to Nusra Front militants to leave eastern Aleppo without surrendering arms. We were against this idea but we agreed as we wanted to help save lives in Aleppo," Lavrov said at the Rome MED — Mediterranean Dialogues 2016 conference.

 According to Lavrov, a number of countries have rejected de Mistura's proposal.

"I think it was done because someone could benefit from leaving the eastern part of Aleppo under control of Nusra Front, which is, of course, unacceptable," Lavrov stressed.

Lavrov said that the current situation in Eastern Aleppo is the result of the failure to dissociate "armed opposition" from terrorists.

"In Eastern Aleppo, we are witnessing the result and the latest failures of a number of foreign friends of the Syrian opposition to dissociate the Syrian opposition from the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in spite of the obligations that the US took upon itself back in January 2016. They then assured us that in literally a few weeks they would be able to dissociate these groups in Syria. This should have been followed by a beginning of a political process, the solution of humanitarian issues; different opposition groups were to take part in the negotiation process," Lavrov said.

"Washington made a big mistake when it missed the chance to implement Russian-US agreements on Syria," Lavrov elaborated.

Talking about joint Russian-US joint efforts to counter terrorism, Lavrov said that Russia is ready to cooperate with the administration of US President-elect Donald Trump in anti-terrorism efforts should Washington show such an intention.

"If the United States focuses on the fight against terrorism and if it wants to cooperate with Russia, we will certainly be ready," Lavrov said in Rome.

H.M

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