Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States is attempting to include positions held by al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front terrorists in a regime of calm in the northwestern Aleppo Province during Washington’s talks with Moscow on the issue.
Lavrov made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Russia’s Sputnik news agency published on Wednesday.
“During the negotiations, our US partners actually tried to draw the borders of this ‘zone of silence’ to include a significant number of positions occupied by al-Nusra [Front]. We managed to exclude this as it is absolutely unacceptable,” Lavrov said.
Such a move by Washington indicated that “someone wants to use the Americans to stop al-Nusra being targeted by strikes,” he added.
Russia and the US recently brokered a “regime of calm” in Latakia Province and Damascus’ suburbs and talks are underway to expand the regime to Aleppo as well.
Syria support group may meet in near future
Elsewhere in his remarks, the top Russian diplomat said the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) is likely to hold a ministerial meeting in the near future.
“It is likely that within the coming weeks, it will be possible to convene a ministerial meeting with one major goal, which is to see who is implementing previous decisions approved by two UN Security Council resolutions and how,” Lavrov said.
The ISSG, co-chaired by Moscow and Washington, was formed in November 2015. Composed of a group of countries and international organizations, the ISSG seeks to bring an end to the conflict gripping Syria since March 2011.
Turkey, Saudi incursion into Syria improbable
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister stressed that Turkey and Saudi Arabia are unlikely to launch ground operations in Syria in the light of Russian air forces already stationed in the Middle-Eastern country.
Riyadh and Ankara have repeatedly expressed their readiness to dispatch ground troops to Syria.
Russia launched its military campaign against terrorist groups in Syria last September upon a request from the government in Damascus. The air raids have expedited the advances of Syrian forces against militants.
Syria peace talks may resume this month
In another part of his interview, Lavrov noted that Russia thinks Syria peace talks would resume in the Swiss city of Geneva this month.
He, however, emphasized that the conditions have not yet been met for direct negotiations due to the “whims” of the main foreign-backed opposition group, known as the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), and countries such as Turkey.
The latest round of UN-brokered indirect negotiations, which began in Geneva on April 13, were brought to a halt after the HNC walked out of the discussions to protest at what it called the Syrian government’s violation of the ceasefire, which was brokered by Russia and the United States. The truce went into effect late February in Syria.
However, an escalation in missile attacks by foreign-backed militants in recent weeks has left the ceasefire in tatters and torpedoed the peace talks.