FM: Russia to take further steps on Syria if needed

Lavrov said Russian military servicemen have been present in Syria for many years. (File photo: Reuters)

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Russia will take further steps on Syria if needed after admitting that his country’s “humanitarian” flights to Syria carry military equipment as well as humanitarian aid.

Lavrov also said Russian military servicemen have been present in Syria for many years.

His statements come after the United States and some European countries expressed growing concern over the cargo on the flights.

Moscow has previously insisted in public that its flights to Syria are only humanitarian. Washington has put pressure on Greece and Bulgaria in recent days to deny Russia's requests to use their airspace for its Syria flights.

Kremlin declined to comment

Meanwhile, the Kremlin declined to comment on Thursday on whether Russian troops were fighting in Syria, after sources in Lebanon told Reuters that Russian forces had begun participating in military operations there.

Bashar al-Assad’s opponents in the West and among Gulf Arab states fear a considerable Russian military buildup is taking place in Syria to support the Syrian president. Moscow says all its military assistance to the Syrian army is in line with international law.

“The threat coming from Islamic State is evident... The only force capable of resisting it is the Syrian armed forces,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, reiterating Russia’s position that its long-time ally Assad should be part of international efforts to combat the ultra-hardline Islamists.

Peskov said Putin would talk about Syria and Islamic State during his speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.

No meeting between Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama in New York has yet been scheduled, he said.

Russia’s respected Kommersant daily on Thursday said Moscow’s advanced BTR-82A armored personnel carriers were among arms supplied to Damascus.

(With Reuters)

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Last Update: 06:48 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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