US Lt. Gen. Paul Funk greets Kurdish commanders of Syrian Democratic Forces in Manbij, Syria, February 2018
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has renewed Russia’s attack on both the US presence in Syria and the control of any territory by Kurdish groups.
Lavrov assailed Washington in an interview on Friday in Moscow with Russian State outlet RT France and the French publications Paris Match and Le Figaro.
He began by raising a question over the duration of the Russian-Turkish demilitarized zone, agreed last month, between opposition and regime areas in northwest Syria — an arrangement suspending a Russian-regime offensive on the area with an estimated 3 million people:
This is really a temporary agreement. This story will end only when the power of the Syrian people is restored in Syria, and all those who are now in Syria, especially those who were never invited there, will leave its territory. Everyone understands this.
But Lavrov immediately moved to his main concern, “I do not agree that Idlib is the only problem area in Syria. There are vast swathes of land to the east of the Euphrates River where absolutely unacceptable things are happening.”
The “absolutely unacceptable things” are the recapture of much of northern and eastern Syria by the US-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from the Islamic State since October2015. Kurdish factions now hold the city of Raqqa and, next to regime units, parts of cities such as Qamishlo and Hasakah.
The Assad regime has sworn to retake “every inch” of Syria by political or military means, but talks this summer in Damascus with some Kurdish groups failed to make any progress
Lavrov told the French publications:
The United States is trying to use this territory to create a quasi-state with their Syrian allies, particularly the Kurds…and to create proper living conditions there for their minions. They are creating alternative governing bodies to the legitimate Syrian government and are actively promoting the return and resettlement of the refugees.
Russia is demanding the departure of all US personnel from Syria, including the closure of the American base at Tanf in eastern Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders. Although Donald Trump called for American withdrawal this spring, the US military stood firm and is maintaining a 55-km (34-mile) exclusion zone around the base.
Lavrov continued with an assault on any Kurdish autonomy:
It is much easier for them to catch the fish they want in muddy waters. This approach has never led to anything good.