The United States has asked Russia to stop conducting airstrikes against the al-Nusra Front terrorists in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says.
Fear of hitting the US-backed militants fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government prompted the American officials to make the request, Lavrov said in a televised speech on Friday.
“They are telling us not to hit it (al-Nusra), because there is ‘normal’ opposition next … to it,” Lavrov said. “But that opposition must leave terrorists’ positions, we long have agreed on that.”
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia answers journalists’ questions on May 25, 2016. (AFP photo)
The foreign minister noted that Russia and the US were closely discussing ways to secure a truce in Syria, adding that fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group and al-Nusra should be a top priority.
Despite a US-Russia mediated “cessation of hostilities” in Syria that began on February 27, fighting has continued to rage in the conflict-ridden parts of the country, particularly around the city of Aleppo.
The Syrian government accepted the truce on condition that military efforts against Daesh and al-Nusra, as well as other UN-designated terror groups which are not included in the agreement, continue.
Russia first set a deadline for the US-backed militants to pull out from areas occupied by al-Nusra, but then agreed to give them more time to withdraw.
Since March, al-Nusra Front has recruited 3,000 new militants, including teenagers, in comparison to an average of 200 to 300 a month before, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has announced according to the AP.
Other sources say hundreds living in camps for displaced people in the northern parts near Turkey have joined the terrorist al-Qaeda branch.
Al-Nusra and other Takfiri terrorists hold most of the northwestern province of Idlib and parts of neighboring Aleppo province.
Last year the Pentagon launched a $500 million “train-and-equip” program to train and arm some 5,400 militants a year as a proxy ground force in Syria, but it yielded only a small cadre of under 200 militants before it was officially pulled.
Those forces are now allegedly being targeted by Russian airstrikes in the Arab country, which began September last year upon a request from Damascus.
Syria has been gripped by a foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, over 400,000 people have been killed in the conflict.