Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | AFP | Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov accused US-led forces of carrying out “bloody provocations” against Russian troops in Syria in an interview published by the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday.
“The activities of US-led forces raise many questions… In some cases, these forces have indirectly encouraged other terrorists to attack strategic positions rightfully regained by Damascus, or they have deliberately engaged in bloody provocations against our forces,” Lavrov said.
The Russian foreign minister appeared to be referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US-led coalition is backing in a drive against Islamic State jihadists in eastern Syria, mainly in the city of Raqqa.
Russia last month accused the SDF of trying to sabotage a separate offensive by its ally, the Syrian military, against IS jihadists around the city of Deir Ezzor, where Russia lost one of its own generals in late September.
To prevent the two operations from clashing, the coalition, the SDF, Syria’s government and Russia have agreed on a “de-confliction line” in northeast Syria, though the US-led coalition has since accused Russian aviation of bombing its SDF allies.
“Today all actors must abandon their geopolitical ambitions and contribute fully to the restoration of stability and security of Syria and throughout the Middle East and North Africa,” Lavrov told Asharq al-Awsat, calling for a lifting of sanctions against Assad’s regime to help Syria’s recovery.
Last month the SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, accused Russia of killing one of its fighters and wounding others in strikes on a gas facility it captured two days earlier from IS in eastern Syria.
The alleged bombardment was the second time the SDF has accused Russia and the regime of hitting its fighters.
A week before the group said six of its fighters were wounded in air strikes by regime and Russian warplanes in the Al-Sinaaiya area around seven kilometres (four miles) from the eastern bank of the Euphrates.
Moscow warned Washington of reprisals after accusing the SDF of firing on Syrian regime forces in the province.