NATO Head Urges ‘Constructive’ Russian Role In Syria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NATO Head Urges ‘Constructive’ Russian Role In Syria

Posted: Sep 25, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told AFP Thursday he was concerned by Russia’s “substantial” military build-up in Syria and urged Moscow to play a constructive role in the fight against Islamic State jihadis.

Russia had its responsibilities in Ukraine too, Stoltenberg said, warning Moscow could expect no let up in Western sanctions unless it helps ensure full implementation of the Minsk ceasefire accords it agreed to in February.

As Moscow announced it would hold naval drills in the eastern Mediterranean later this month, the NATO secretary general said it was essential that Russia make its intentions in Syria completely clear.

The rise in Russian activity “increases the need for them to make sure that they play a constructive role and that they seek to do that in a cooperative and constructive way with the (anti-IS) coalition led by the US,” Stoltenberg told AFP in an interview at NATO HQ in Brussels to mark his first year in office.

“I think the first step now is to sit down with the United States and to make clear what are (their) intentions.”

In no circumstances should the build-up be used to bolster President Bashar al-Assad — Russia’s long-time Middle East ally — he said.

After a string of reverses earlier this year, Moscow has begun resupplying Assad with modern military equipment, including aircraft.

Russia also began reinforcing its naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus and boosting facilities in the Assad’s Western stronghold around Latakia.

“It is of course a cause for concern,” Stoltenberg said of the military build up.

NATO welcomed recent contacts between Moscow and Washington on Syria, he said, “but at the same time I am concerned because there is also the risk that these forces will be used to support the Assad regime.

“To support the Assad regime is not a constructive contribution to fighting ISIL (nor) to finding a political solution to the conflict,” he said.

“The Assad regime is actually part of the problem.”