Syria conflict: Russia defends air strikes | 2015-10-01 |

Syria conflict: Russia defends air strikes

BBC     1st October, 2015 10:59:51 printer

Syria conflict: Russia defends air strikes

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has defended his country's air strikes in Syria, saying they were targeting the same "terrorist" groups as the US-led coalition.


He rejected suggestions that Russian action was to bolster Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.


He also said Russia did not consider the opposition Free Syrian Army to be a terrorist group.


Russian jets carried out a second day of air strikes in Syria on Thursday.


The Kremlin says it is acting on the request of the Syrian government to help combat Islamic State (IS) - which has seized parts of Syria and Iraq - and other designated terrorist groups.


But the US and its allies fear the strikes have mainly targeted opponents of Russia's ally, Mr Assad.


Mr Lavrov, speaking at the UN in New York, said Russia would fight IS and other terrorist groups, including the al-Nusra Front - an al-Qaeda affiliate.


He said this position was the same as the US-led coalition which has been carrying out air strikes in Iraq and Syria for several months.


"We are not supporting anyone against their own people. We fight terrorism," he said.


"As far as I understand it, the [US-led] coalition announced Isil (IS) and other associated groups as the enemy. And the coalition does the same as Russia does."


Mr Lavrov said the sites being attacked were selected "in co-ordination with the Syrian army".


On the Free Syrian Army he added: "We believe that the Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process like some other armed groups on the ground composed of Syrian patriotic opposition individuals."