Syrian opposition tells Russia to ‘behave’

  • Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the opposition, accused Russia of trying to fragment the Syrian opposition
  • Russia, Iran and Turkey agree that the Syrian peace process must continue despite Western missile strikes

JEDDAH: Claims by some Syrian opposition figures are damaging efforts to inject new life into the Geneva peace process, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday, adding that there can be no preconditions for Geneva talks.

Russia, Iran and Turkey agree that the Syrian peace process must continue despite Western missile strikes, Lavrov said after meeting his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Moscow.

Yahya Al-Aridi, spokesman for the opposition, told Arab News that Lavrov played “the game of quantifiers” when he said “some members” of the opposition, which suggested that the rest of the opposition is toeing Russia’s line.

He accused Lavrov of trying to fragment the opposition.

Al-Aridi said: “We have to ask ourselves, is the Assad regime’s brutality helping the peace process; are Russian strikes, the regime’s bombardment, displacement of Syrian civilians and Moscow’s cover-up of the regime’s crimes helping the peace process? That is the question Mr. Lavrov should answer.”

On Lavrov’s stance on preconditions, Al-Aridi said: “Does this mean that the opposition or Syrians in general should be completely submissive to Russian and regime’s dictatorship?”

Al-Aridi claimed Lavrov appeared to believe that submission to the regime’s brutality and to Russia’s occupation of Syria are the only ways to help the Geneva peace process.

“Well, we cannot promise that we will do as he wishes. We believe Russia, in particular, should behave.”

Lavrov said the recent US-led missile strikes on Syria “seriously aggravated the situation.”

Statements supporting the territorial integrity of Syria “are only words that, apparently, cover plans for reformatting the Middle East and plans for dividing Syria into parts,” he said.

Lavrov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The ministers issued a joint statement condemning chemical attacks and said any reports of their use should be “investigated promptly and professionally” by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Cavusoglu, meanwhile, criticized the US for supporting Syria’s main Kurdish militia, which played a key role in rolling back Daesh and now controls much of northern and eastern Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast.

“Today, the US supports terrorist organizations, and this has to stop,” Cavusoglu said.

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