Russia says US is protecting jihadist Syrian rebels
The US is trying to spare a jihadist group in its attempts to unseat Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s foreign minister has told the BBC.
Sergei Lavrov said the US had broken its promise to separate the powerful Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly known as al-Nusra Front) and other extremist groups from more moderate rebels.
And he defended the bombardment of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian forces.
Jabhat Fateh al-Sham is linked to al-Qaeda.
Mr Lavrov was speaking to Stephen Sackur on BBC World News TV on the first anniversary of the beginning of the Russian air campaign in Syria.
“They [the US] pledged solemnly to take as a priority an obligation to separate the opposition from Nusra,” he said.
“They still, in spite of many repeated promises and commitments… are not able or not willing to do this and we have more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two when it would be time to change the regime.”
A recent US-Russian deal was meant to lead to joint Russian-US air strikes on the Islamic State group and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham.
But many of the more moderate rebel groups that the US backs have formed a strategic alliance with the more powerful Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and now fight alongside it.
Mr Lavrov said: “We believe that the Russian-American deal must be put into effect. For this the only thing which is necessary is to separate the opposition from Nusra. If it is supported by the United States, not on paper but in real life, and then we will insist on an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
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