Russia Expects US to Clarify Its New Policy on Syria

MOSCOW- Washington’s new approach towards Syria triggers numerous questions, and Moscow hopes to receive an honest answer to them, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday, Itar Tass reported.

"We maintain contacts with our US counterparts on the Syrian problem, including the so-called deconfliction, between both military officials and diplomats," the Russian minister said at a news conference following meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "When we hear about the United States’ new line, which implies the creation of some local councils in sovereign Syria, of course, this fact cannot fail to raise eyebrows."

 "We address all these questions to Washington and expect to get an honest and clear answer," Lavrov stressed

He drew attention to some "strange things" taking place in the activities of the US-led coalition in Syria.

"There were numerous instances when during the Syrian army’s offensive against IS positions [Islamic State] militants were able to leave the areas controlled by the US-led coalition and were sent to put up additional resistance to the Syrian government army," the minister explained. "In particular, there were cases of mass exodus of IS militants from Raqqa at the very moment when the coalition supported by the US besieged the city."

Lavrov calls for stopping terrorists’ migration elsewhere after defeat in Syria, Iraq

Lavrov said also said that the international community should prevent terrorists from moving to other countries after their defeat in Syria and Iraq.

He added that he and al-Jaafari discussed the situation in the Middle East and in the region in general, focusing on "stepping up efforts in the fight against international terrorism."

"Now the key forefront of this battle is ongoing in Iraq and neighboring Syria," Lavrov said.

"The task of all participants of anti-terrorist steps is to defeat terrorist groups such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) and minimize, if not nullify, their chances of moving to other regions of the globe," he said.

The initiative of Russian President Vladimir Putin to create a global anti-terror coalition, based on mutual trust and without double standards, fully meets this task, Lavrov said.

"We support the efforts of the Iraqi government not only against terrorism, where serious success has been reached, but also in the context of normalizing the situation in the country through an inclusive dialogue of all ethnic and religious groups," he said.

Moscow's Stance on Kurdistan Referendum 'Very Friendly' to Baghdad - Iraq FM

Lavrov also reiterated Russia's respect for Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity, calling on the parties involved to solve all their problems through dialogue between all ethnic and political groups and faiths, Sputnik reported.

'We have not seen a war so far, hopefully, there will be no war between the Iraqi government troops and the Kurds," Lavrov said.

On his part, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari said that Iraq regards Russia's support for Baghdad's position on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence referendum as a "very friendly" stance.

"There is a problem related to the referendum in Kurdistan. On this issue, the whole international community has expressed support for our [Iraqi] side. This relates also to the League of the Arab States and the UN Security Council. I would like to emphasize that Russia as well as a very friendly stance on this issue in relation to us. Because Russia also respects our Kurdish brothers who are an indispensable part of our nation," Jaafari told reporters prior to the start of the meeting with Lavrov in Moscow.

According to the top diplomat, the referendum was "unconstitutional because Article 1 of the Iraqi Constitution says that Iraq is a sovereign, single and indivisible state.

"The Constitution really provides our Kurdish brothers with an opportunity to create their own region but it does not mean they have a right to secede from Iraq," Jaafari added.

The tensions between Baghdad and Erbil have escalated after the September 25 independence referendum held in the Kurdistan region as well as disputed areas with over 90 percent of the Kurds supporting secession from Iraq despite strong opposition from Baghdad.

Commenting on the referendum, Moscow has said that Russia would continue interacting with Iraqi Kurdistan, but in coordination with the government in Baghdad.

H.M

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