21 July 201712:16

Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department Artyom Kozhin’s reply to a question from Lebanon’s Al Mayadeen media network regarding the Trump administration’s decision to stop arming the Syrian opposition

1394-21-07-2017

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Question: What does Moscow think about the decision that’s been made by the Trump administration to end the programme to provide arms to the Syrian opposition? Can you describe this as a positive result of the recent Putin-Trump meeting in Hamburg? Has it brought any major results on the subject of the Syrian crisis?

Artyom Kozhin: You are probably referring to an article published in The Washington Post on July 19. It writes that Donald Trump “has decided to halt the CIA’s covert programme to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels” and that this decision “reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia.”

We have not heard anything regarding this decision from the official sources. Neither do we know about the status of other similar programmes that could be implemented by other US agencies. The US intelligence does not report to us. Moreover, the newspaper writes that the White House made the decision nearly a month ago.

Speaking to the point, we have expressed how we feel when it comes to the US flirting with militants in Syria more than once. We have forewarned that this flirtation could have unpredictable military and political consequences. We repeatedly pointed to the Americans’ unscrupulous actions taken in Syria in the pursuit of their self-seeking geopolitical interests. We insisted that Washington separate the so-called moderate opposition from die-hard terrorists, including Jabhat al-Nusra, the local al-Qaeda branch which the Pentagon has been protecting for some reason.

It is an open secret that a substantial number of militants who have been trained under the US Train and Equip programme ultimately joined ISIS and al-Nusra. We regard this as a repetition of the tragic story of Afghanistan and Libya. The potential consequences of this should be obvious to everyone.

As for the meetings in Hamburg, President Putin said that the exchange of opinions on Syria has shown that President Trump is aware of the importance of working together towards a settlement in Syria. One practical result of this mutual understanding is the July 7 agreement reached between Russia, the United States and Jordan on a ceasefire in southern Syria. We do hope that it will provide the basis for moving forward in other areas as well.

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