PHOTO: French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
- Airstrike on Town Near Damascus Kills 35
- Six More Iranian Troops Killed, Confirmed Total Now 105 Since Oct. 7
- Turkey Criticizes Russian Killing of Civilians
- Russian State Outlet Publishes Syrian Politician’s Criticism of Assad
- Russia Denies Report That 9 Contractors Were Killed in October
Russia and France have consulted in Moscow over the Islamic State in Syria, with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hosting his counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“The main attention in their hour-and-a-half -long conversation, held in a businesslike and sincere atmosphere, was put on prospects to coordinate efforts of the two countries’ military departments in fight against international terrorism,” the Defense Ministry said.
The Ministry said the Russian and French military staffs will continue contacts, with the French Chief of the Defense Staff, General Pierre de Villiers, soon visiting Moscow. Shoigu invited Le Drian to attend Moscow conference on international security, scheduled for the end of April.
Le Drian said he and Shoigu considered “the coordination between our militaries in order to avoid confrontations” in their operations, explaining, “Our intelligence services will strengthen their already existing ties, which require increased cooperation.”
Russia has held similar “deconfliction” discussions with the US to prevent accidental clashes between warplanes.
The two sides also reportedly agreed to share information on foreign fighters inside Syria.
Russia has proclaimed that its bombing campaign from September 30 inside Syria has been against the Islamic State, even though more than 80% of attacks are on opposition-held territory. France said that it was stepping up assaults on ISIS after the militants killed 132 people in bombings and shootings in Paris on November 13.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday’s meeting followed up discussions between French President Francois Hollande and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on November 26.
The two sides are still divided politically over the fate of President Assad. Paris has insisted that he must leave at the end of a transition, while Moscow has refused to agree a statement for his departure.
Airstrike on Town Near Damascus Kills 35
Syrian journalist Abdurahman Harkoush reports another mass killing from an airstrike near Damascus:
Air strike on Bazineh town in Eastern Ghouta leaves 35 people dead https://t.co/6FFOiJSkKE
— Abdurahman Harkoush (@Abduhark) December 22, 2015
Attacks are reported on Bidama in Idlib Province in northwest Syria, with video showing at least two children killed:
— Sakir Khader (@sakirkhader) December 22, 2015
Hraytan, north of Aleppo city, has also been struck.
Six More Iranian Troops Killed, Confirmed Total Now 105 Since Oct. 7
Iranian media confirmed the deaths of six troops in Syria on Sunday and Monday, including a colonel and a member of the Marine Special Forces.
No further details were given of the deaths, which bring the confirmed total since October 7 to 105. Among the casualties are eight Iranian commanders, including the overall commander of forces in Syria, General Hassan Hamedani.
The media also reported the funerals of another eight Iranian-led Afghan and Pakistani militia.
The funeral of Revoutionary Guards member Akbar Malek Shahi:
Turkey Criticizes Russian Killing of Civilians
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu has criticized the mass killing of civilians in Russia’s bombing campaign inside Syria.
In a written statement on Monday, Çavuşoğlu said, “The death toll of civilians due to Russian operations is over 600. Some organizations say this number is around 800. We want the world to know that more than 150 of this number are children.”
He specifically denounced airstrikes on opposition-held Idlib Province on Sunday, including the deaths of more than 50 people in Idlib city.
“Russia mainly targets the moderate opposition in Syria since it entered Syria on Sep. 30. Meanwhile, civilian residential areas have been increasingly targeted as well,” Çavuşoğlu asserted.
Russian State Outlet Publishes Syrian Politician’s Criticism of Assad
In a subtle change in the Russian PR line, State outlet TASS has published criticism of the Assad regime by a Syrian politician.
Qadri Jamil, who was dismissed from the Government in October 2013, said on Monday that Syrians believe in neither the regime nor the opposition given the country’s desperate situation:
We are now faced with new tasks, above all, the preservation of Syria, this is the ultimate goal. Disagreements between the warring parties are brought to the fore instead of paying attention to the humanitarian disaster. This is an immoral stance
The Syrian people trust neither the regime nor the opposition, as they plunged it into a tragedy. Everyone promotes its slogans, but what is important is the result. And the result is 8 million migrants inside and outside Syria, 300,000 dead on both sides, 1 million disabled people and millions of orphans and widows.
Jamil, who now heads a group called the Syrian Popular Front for Change and Liberation, added that “50% of Syria’s economic potential has been destroyed” with the currency losing more than 85% of its value:
[This is] a catastrophic situation in every sense of the world. They are killing the Syrian people not only with bullets but also with cold and hunger.
Jamil has long-time links to Russia, with an Economics degree from Moscow State University, and was married to the daughter of the Secretary-General of the Syrian Communist Party.
During a visit to Moscow in August 2012, Jamil said that President Assad’s resignation might be considered if the opposition agreed to negotiate a peaceful settlement.
Russia Denies Report That 9 Contractors Were Killed in Syria
The Russian Defense Ministry has denied a report in The Wall Street Journal, based on three Russian sources, that nine contractors at Moscow’s main base in western Syria were killed by a rebel mortar in October.
The Ministry said in a statement on Monday:
[We were] surprised to learn about a Russian internet outlet report alleging that nine Russian contract servicemen had been killed in Syria. Notably, the outlet cites an investigation conducted by the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal, which, by the way, had no mention of the participation of Russian servicemen in the ground operation. Moreover, not a single word was said there about their death in the territory of Syria.
According to the sources, the contractors belonged to a private group called OSM, known informally as Wagner, which was reportedly providing about 1,000 men to protect infrastructure at the base. The group withdrew after the incident.