Russia and the US are again at loggerheads over their differences on the Syrian civil war. Tension rose between the two countries after US President Barack Obama warned Russia about its airstrikes in Syria. Russia carried out air strikes for the third straight day. And it is alleged that it mainly hit areas held by rival insurgent groups rather than Islamic State militants in Syria.
President Obama said the Russian bombing was driving the moderate opposition underground, and only strengthening the Islamic State militants in the region. Obama warned both Russia and Iran of grave dangers ahead if they continued bombing the opposition groups.
Obama said Russian President Vladimir Putin was pursuing “a recipe for disaster” that would result in a quagmire.
“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” Obama said in a White House news conference on Friday.
“Regardless of what Mr. Putin said, he doesn’t distinguish between ISIL and a moderate Sunni opposition that wants to see Assad go and from their perspective, they’re all terrorists. And that’s a recipe for disaster and it’s one that I reject,” Obama said.
But Obama conceded that neither Russia nor the US would engage in a “proxy war” because of their differences over Syria.
“I want Russia to be successful. This is not a contest between the United States and Russia. It is in our interest to be a responsible, effect, actor on the international stage that can share burdens with us,” said the US President.
The US and six other allies warned Russia to stop attacking Syrian opposition and civilians, and expressed “deep concern” over Russia’s military build-up in Syria.
Earlier on Friday, a joint statement that criticised Russian strikes, was released by the US-led coalition which includes France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Britain.
Meanwhile, Russia continued to insist that its campaign was only targeting IS and termed the allegations of the West as “total nonsense.”
“These pseudo-sensations are total nonsense and haven’t enough factual basis to name or even discuss in detail. I call your attention to the fact that the information provocations emerging today were prepared hastily before the beginning of the operation. We knew about their existence, they are not news to us,” said Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov.
Giving details about the air strikes, Moscow cliamed to have destroyed an Islamic State command post near Raqa among other targets.
“Over the past 24 hours SU-34 and SU-24M jets of the Russian airborne formation in Syria made more than 20 sorties over nine Islamic State infrastructure facilities,” the Russian Defence Ministry said.
US’ warning came even as the French, German and Russian leaders met in Paris. The leaders met to discuss peace efforts in Ukraine, but the meeting was overshadowed by Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch strikes in Syria marked a dramatic escalation of foreign involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Several groups in Syria are fighting against Russia’s ally, President Bashar al-Assad. The West and its allies allege that Russian bombing is a pretext to bomb other groups that oppose Assad.
Two days ago Putin addressed the UN in New York where he made a case to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Putin’s decision to launch an individual air campaign in Syria has no doubt heightened the tension between Russia and the West, especially the US.
(With inputs from agencies)