Lavrov Says Russia Targeting Only Terrorists in Syria
by Pamela Dockins October 01, 2015
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sought to soften disagreements with the United States over the air campaign in Syria, saying Moscow sees 'eye to eye' with the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State when it comes to identifying terrorists.
At a news conference Thursday, Lavrov said that the U.S.-led coalition said its targets are Islamic State militants, the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front and other terrorists.
"This is basically our position as well," said Lavrov, who spoke at the United Nations.
Meanwhile, Russian jets staged a second day of airstrikes in Syria. Observers said the targets were not only Islamic State extremists, but also moderate opposition fighters backed by the United States.
Asked who Russia viewed as a terrorist in Syria, Lavrov replied, "If it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it's a terrorist – right?"
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, asked whether he agreed with Lavrov that the two countries were targeting the same people, said, 'Well, in concept, but we are not yet where we need to be to guarantee the safety and security and division of responsibility.'
Kerry added that the United States and Russia had been discussing targets and would continue to do so 'over the course of the next few days.'
Russia's defense minister said in a televised report that Russian aircraft had hit a dozen Islamic State targets, including a command center and two ammunition depots.
But the Kremlin acknowledged it also was taking aim at 'a list' of groups beyond the extremist group.
For weeks, Russia has been moving aircraft and other military equipment into Syria in what appears to be a stepped-up effort to support the Syrian regime. The moves have put Russia at odds with the U.S. and other world powers that believe the Syrian crisis cannot be resolved without the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Russia's decision to launch airstrikes in Syria was "tantamount to pouring gasoline on the fire" of the country's four-year civil war.
Lavrov responded Thursday, saying he could not "share" Carter's assessment. 'We believe that our position is absolutely in line with international law," he said.
Asked whether Russia planned to expand airstrikes into Iraq, Lavrov said it didn't. "We were not invited. We were not asked," he said.
Russian media earlier Thursday quoted senior foreign ministry official Ilya Rogachyov as saying Russia would consider staging airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq if Baghdad asked it to do so. Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi has said he would welcome such assistance.
On Wednesday, Kerry announced that Russia and the United States had agreed to hold military-to-military talks on Syria, concerning their separate efforts. He commented during a joint appearance with Lavrov.
Kerry also said the two sides agreed that "several options' would be further discussed.
Separately, Russia presented a draft U.N. resolution calling for a coordination of efforts in Syria to fight groups such as the Islamic State.
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