Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke at a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Thursday. He denied that Russia was supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad, but working toward the common Security Council aim of defeating the Islamic State Group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
"You have to cooperate with all the forces," he told reporters, "the goal is terrorism. We are not supporting anyone."
Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov confirmed Wednesday that, “Russian aerospace force jets delivered pinpoint strikes on eight ISIS terror group targets in Syria. In total, 20 flights were made.”
When asked whether the Syrian government should change, Lavrov replied, "Yes there must be political change in Syria, no doubt about it,” but he reminded the international community to remember that the wars started in Iraq and Libya were both based on a threat of strongmen leaders, yet their removal did not improve the fate of those countries.
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Lavrov called those accusing Russia of anything but fighting terrorism of having a "distorted and perverted perception."
"The coalition does the same as Russia,” Lavrov explained, “Somehow some people try to present the coalition action as a political settlement, and they present Russia, which has the same aim as working with the regime."
Lavrov told the BBC correspondent, who asked him to confirm whether Russia hit CIA-trained “moderate rebels,” as was reported Thursday morning by news agencies.
“You know this as a fact?” Lavrov asked the journalist, reminding those present that it has been proven that some of the reporting in Ukraine was false in order to pressure Russia.
"Yes there must be political change in Syria, no doubt about it.”
“We targeted ISIS," he confirmed.
The AP asked Lavrov, "Is this a diversionary strategy to take attention away from Urkaine?"
Lavrov rebutted that the "situation in the Middle East and North Africa (requires) an urgent response. Everyone is saying ISIL is expanding, one year after the coalition began its work."
Lavrov acknowledged some success on behalf of the U.S.-led coalition, in that the Islamic State group has been beaten back in come parts of Iraq. However, he warned, “quite a number of ISIL fighters have been pushed into Syria."
Syria slammed the U.S.-led airstrikes Wednesday, saying they were “ineffective,” while praising Russia for its air support.
When asked what difference Russia’s strikes could make, Lavrov replied, "The difference we believe we can make is the fact that we would be coordinating with the Syrian Army, and it is recognized everywhere that airstrikes alone will not solve the problem."
To a New York Times reporter, who asked whether if Russia was planning to expand Iraq, Lavrov replied, "No, we are not planning to expand our airstrikes to Iraq ... we were not asked and as you know we are polite people, we do not come if we are not asked."
Regarding the often tense relations between the United States and Russia Lavrov commented the difference between the countries is "partly philosophical, partly practical, We believe in collective action ... we believe for the need for serious countries to respect the legitimate action of others."
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