Russia Draws the US a Line on the Sand in Syria
Russia warned the United States on Wednesday about any ground operations in Syria after the Pentagon brought forward the possibility of “direct action on the ground” against the Islamic State.
“The United States has grossly violated international law by illegally organizing an air operation in the territory of Syria, since it has neither the approval of the UN Security Council nor the request of the Syrian authorities” said the President Russian Senate, Valentina Matviyenko.
Matviyenko said that “even if it is some kind of ground operation, then this will trample on international law”. She stressed that Russia takes seriously the statements made by the US Pentagon chief, Ashton Carter, before the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate. “This is already unacceptable. This is too much,” she said.
The president of the upper house of the Russian parliament insisted that her country “is interested in the US joining Russia’s operation in Syria to fight ISIS together. We hope that this appeal will be heard,” she added.
Carter said Tuesday that there would be a strengthening of the US military campaign against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria, which will result in more air strikes and “direct action on the ground” in the Syrian province of Raqa.
“We will not hold back when supporting operations against ISIS are or when carrying out our own missions, neither in attacks from the air nor direct action on the ground,” Carter said.
During the hearing, the Pentagon chief reiterated criticism of the Kremlin’s military campaign in Syria and claimed that Russian forces “are mainly attacking the Syrian opposition”, which contributes to “feed” the “tragic civil war” in that country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US last week of practicing a “double game” by declaring war on terror while using jihadists as a “battering ram” to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
In the last couple of days, the United States, at the request of Russia, issued an invitation to the Iranian government so its representatives participate of new negotiations that are intended to seek a diplomatic solution to the armed conflict in Syria. The Iranians have already accepted the American invitation.
The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, will attend the international meeting to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. The meeting is scheduled for next Friday in Vienna, sources said Wednesday.
“Based on the invitation to the Islamic Republic of Iran to participate in this summit, the Foreign Minister will be present in Vienna as head of a political high-level delegation to discuss the situation in Syria,” said Iranian spokesman, Marziyé Afkham.
He noted that during the meeting, Zarif will hold bilateral meetings with his Russian and European colleagues to discuss other issues of regional and international importance.
Afkham said it is “possible” that Zarif and his delegation will also meet with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to specifically address the implementation of the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group on 14 July.
The spokesman of the State Department of the United States, John Kirby, said Iran was invited to the Vienna meeting and that its presence would depend only on the decision of the Iranian authorities, in what constitutes a substantial change in the US stance on Tehran’s role in resolving the Syrian conflict.
So far, the United States was opposed to Iran’s role in the negotiations for a political solution in Syria, while Russia insisted that the process should include the Iranian government, a closer ally of the Syrian regime. The chief diplomat of the European Union (EU), Federica Mogherini, had also expressed support for Iran’s participation in the multilateral talks.
The Iranian foreign minister and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, held a telephone conversation on Wednesday to seek ways to resolve the Syrian crisis. Both diplomats considered that there is no other alternative to achieve a peace process in Syria unless all countries involved in the conflict participate.
Friday’s meeting in the Austrian capital was agreed upon by Kerry, Lavrov and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Adel Al Jubeir, and Turkey, Feridun Sinirlioglu.
The agreement on Iran’s nuclear program reached in July between the Iranian Government and the 5+1 Group has opened the door to Tehran for a greater role in multilateral negotiations.
At a meeting in New York in late September, Iran and the 5+1 Group had already discussed the possibility of starting a dialogue on the conflict in Syria.