Syrian rebel army: we did not refuse Russian support

A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position close to a military base, near Azaz, Syria. (File photo: AP)

The Western-backed Free Syrian Army said on Monday it had not refused an offer of military support from Russia and that Moscow needs to stop targeting its bases in Syria.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview broadcast on Saturday that Russia’s airforce, which has been bombing Islamist militants in Syria since Sept. 30, would be ready to help the rebel group, if it knew where they were.

“We didn’t turn down the offer. We just said if the Russians are serious in their offer they should stop immediately targeting our bases and targeting the civil areas,” Major Issam Al Reis, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, told the BBC.

“We don’t need the help now, they should stop attacking our bases and then we can talk about future co-operation.”

However, the spokesman also said the rebel army is facing four armies without enough weapons and there are no intention by the international community to arm them.

Also on Monday, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bodganov said that delegations from the FSA had visited Moscow several times, Russian news agencies reported.

"Yes, they were here, including this (week) too," he said, answering a question on whether the group had visited Moscow last week, according to Interfax news agency.

Russian air strikes have hit several rebel groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army in areas of western Syria crucial to President Bashar al-Assad's survival.

Areas where the Southern Front operates near the border with Jordan and Israel have not been targeted in Russian air strikes, which have struck areas further north.

Groups affiliated to the FSA have been eclipsed in much of Syria by jihadists including the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State group -- the stated target of the Russian intervention in the war.

But a number still exist, led mostly by former Syrian military officers who defected from the army. Some have received foreign military support, including training from the Central Intelligence Agency, and weapons.

They have been supplied with weapons from states opposed to Assad via Turkey and Jordan. Assad’s foreign opponents include Gulf Arab states and Turkey.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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