Russia’s defense minister has said Syrian rebels cannot be negotiated with, making peace talks impossible for the time being. He blamed the West for supporting “terrorists.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow was not expecting a resumption of Syrian peace talks in the foreseeable future because of the “impossibility” of negotiating with forces opposed to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Militants in the northern city of Aleppo were “shooting dozens of civilians a day for attempting to approach humanitarian corridors” opened by a pause in Russian and Syrian air attacks, he said in comments carried by the state news agency TASS.
“Is this really an opposition with whom it is possible to negotiate?” he said, adding, “As a result, the prospect for the beginning of a political process and returning peace to the Syrian people is being postponed indefinitely.”
He accused the West of continuing to support violent Islamists as a by-product of its help to so-called “moderate” rebels fighting against Assad’s forces, which are receiving backing from the Russian military. Much of Aleppo is under the control of Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda.
“It is time for our Western colleagues to determine whom they are fighting against: terrorists or Russia,” Shoigu said. “In order to destroy terrorists in Syria it is necessary to act together and not put a spanner in the works of partners.”
With its military support for the Syrian regime, Russia has increasingly come onto a collision course with the United States and its allies, who want to see Assad removed from office.
Shoigu, who was addressing a meeting of Russian military officials, said he was surprised that some European governments had not allowed Russian naval vessels headed for Syria through the Mediterranean Sea to dock for refueling or restocking, but said the refusals had not affected the naval mission.
NATO had voiced concern that the ships could be used in airstrikes in Syria, which it says have killed large numbers of civilians. Moscow denied the charges.
tj/sms (Reuters, dpa)