Putin and Obama Discuss Syria

April 20, 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama spoke by phone, Monday, at the initiation of the US side, according to the Kremlin, to discuss Syria and Ukraine. Putin "stressed the need for the moderate opposition to distance themselves swiftly from ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, and to close Syria's border with Turkey, from where fighters and arms supplies for the extremists make their way in," according to the Kremlin readout. "The two presidents agreed to continue building up their coordination on Syria, including through their intelligence services and defense ministries. For this purpose, additional measures will be put in place for rapid response to violations of the ceasefire."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in remarks to reporters, Monday, that echoed Putin's statements to Obama, noted that so-called moderate rebel groups that signed onto the Russia-US brokered cease fire have not removed themselves from proximity to areas controlled by Jabhat al Nusra. According to a lengthy report in RT, Lavrov blamed the US for failing to exert influence on the opposition and questioned its claims of being moderate.

Washington officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, agreed with Moscow's stance, "that if these groups want to fulfill the conditions of the ceasefire and don't want to look like terrorist supporters, they must do a simple thing — change their dislocation area and physically separate themselves from the terrorists," Lavrov said. He added that the US has repeatedly promised Russia to exert its influence on moderate opposition, but the minister said that "those promises are still not fulfilled."

"If this moderate opposition doesn't want to leave the areas occupied by Al-Nusra, maybe it is not moderate? Maybe they are just those, who cooperate with Al-Nusra despite the UN Security Council resolution?" he asked. Both Al Nusra and ISIS, Lavrov stressed, are trying to improve their positions in Aleppo. "They are, I stress once again, a legitimate target for those, fighting against terrorism in Syria," he said.