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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov ©AP
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov ©AP

A senior Russian official says US-led Western governments have been using terrorism and militant groups to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad in Syria.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Thursday that the West has closed its eyes to terrorism in order to use radical groups to topple President Assad.

“Unfortunately, it needs to be said that several years ago when we began speaking about the problem of terrorism, our Western partners tried to turn a blind eye for one single reason, which was that they attempted to use terrorism and radical groups to overthrow the Bashar Assad regime. This is obvious today,” Gatilov told journalists in St. Petersburg.

Since the Syria conflict started in 2011, the US and its allies have been providing military and financial aid to the militants who are accused of widespread war crimes.

The US has on several occasions airdropped weapons for anti-Damascus militants, which ended up in the hands of the Takfiri Daesh terrorists.

Russia rejects claims Syria violated ceasefire

The Russian official also dismissed accusations by some Western countries that the Damascus government has violated an existing ceasefire or any agreement on cessation of hostilities.

Gatilov added that the Damascus government forces solely fought Takfiri Daesh militant group and al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front that have been designated as terrorists by the international community.

“When the cessation of hostilities introduction was discussed, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations from the Security Council sanction list were excluded from the cessation coverage. Therefore, there is the full understanding that the cessation of hostilities is not applicable to these terrorist groups,” Gatilov noted, adding, “From this perspective, the Syrian forces’ actions are absolutely not violating the understandings achieved.”

The remarks come as US Secretary of State John Kerry has recently accused the Syrian government forces of violating the ceasefire by conducting military operations against Daesh and some other terrorist groups.

Russia has announced that a truce it engineered with the United States for Syria has been violated by foreign-backed militants on numerous occasions after it took effect.

The nation-wide cessation of hostilities, brokered by Moscow and Washington, was introduced in February in a bid to facilitate dialogue between rival parties in Syria. The deal does not apply to terrorist groups such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.


A militant from the Faylaq al-Rahman group mans a position in the town of Arbin in the eastern Ghouta in Syria on February 26, 2016. ©AFP

New round of Syrian talks in Geneva may begin in late May-June 

The Russian official also stated that the next round of talks in between Syria’s warring  groups in Geneva could be held in late May or early June.

“The date of the next round has not been determined yet. As you know, a meeting of the International Syria Support Group was held, where all aspects associated with Syrian settlement and the current situation in Syria were discussed. I think Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura, who is the [UN] special envoy on Syria, will determine the next date of the intra-Syrian negotiation process following this meeting,” Gatilov said.

The last round of UN-brokered peace talks, which began in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 13, were brought to a halt after the foreign-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) walked out of the discussions in protest at what it called the Syrian government’s violation of a ceasefire in the Arab country.

Damascus dismissed the accusation, saying the truce was violated by foreign-backed militants.

Damascus has long been saying that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar are funding and arming anti-Syria terrorist groups, including Daesh Takfiri terrorists.

De Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict that has gripped Syria since March 2011. The conflict has also displaced over half of the Arab country’s pre-war population of about 23 million.

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