Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s statement and answers to media questions in connection with US-led coalition air strikes at the Syrian army in the city of Deir ez-Zor on September 17, 2016
Today, the so-called US-led coalition delivered air strikes at the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor. This is where Syrian Arab Republic forces have been fighting ISIS for a long time. This is ISIS rather than opposition units or some other terrorist organisations. The case in point is ISIS.
We are deeply concerned about the fact that the strikes hit the Syrian army directly, units that had been methodically destroying ISIS groups there. To help the Syrian forces, humanitarian aid is delivered there both by the UN and Russia. The Americans gave no indication of this attack during the daily Russian-US contact at the Russia-US centre for prompt response in Geneva or in the course of almost daily contact between Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry. Moreover, they didn’t even hint at their intention to conduct operations in that area.
This leads us to believe that Washington, which has made a commitment to separate the terrorists from the so-called moderate opposition, is not keeping its word or is just powerless to perform the commitments it has assumed.
If earlier we had suspicions that al-Nusra was being protected like this, after today’s strikes against the Syrian army, we could reach a really frightening conclusion with global implications: the White House is defending ISIS. There is no doubt left. If so, this is possibly the reason the US will not agree to publish the Russian-US Geneva agreements. We demand that Washington explain whether this is a consistent policy or yet another mistake.
After this incident, the Russian UN Ambassador has been instructed to convene an emergency Security Council meeting dedicated to the issue.
Question: How will Moscow and the Foreign Ministry respond?
Maria Zakharova: We demand that Washington provide explanations – full and detailed. These explanations should be presented to the UN Security Council.
Question: ISIS militants launched an offensive immediately after the coalition attacks. How might the situation change now?
Maria Zakharova: We assume that during the last six months – six months at least – the international community has managed to do a lot to enable a Syrian settlement to be implemented. An almost impossible accomplishment has been carried out as two tracks were launched in parallel. I mean a political settlement and the fight against terrorism. The International Syria Support Group passed documents that were later approved by the UN Security Council. Following months of very difficult talks, a Russian-US agreement was achieved at last, a package of documents on how to conduct the joint fight against terrorism.
And today, after all that, we see these attacks. They not only call into question the entire amount of work done by the international community as represented by the ISSG and the UN Security Council, as well as by both countries bilaterally, they actually put it into jeopardy.
Russia did whatever it could to find a compromise and a real path towards a settlement in Syria.