Russia has accused the United States of providing a cover for the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria just days after President Vladimir Putin met American counterpart Donald Trump and both pledged to fight the jihadis together.
Moscow said that the U.S.-led coalition is trying to hamper its airstrikes against ISIS in the eastern town of Abu Kamal, which Syrian regime forces captured last week before jihadis launched a counter-attack and regained control of the majority of the town.
“These facts are conclusive evidence that the United States, while imitating an uncompromising fight against international terrorism for the global community, in fact provides cover for Islamic State units,” the defense ministry said.
In another statement on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed any suggestion that Moscow had promised to force the withdrawal of pro-Iranian forces or Iranian individuals from Syria, according to RIA news agency. He said that the presence of Iran was legitimate because it had come at the request of the Syrian government, the recognized power in the country.
Russia has entered the Syrian civil war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing air power, special forces and tactical ground support in Damascus’ bid to wrestle back large tracts of land from Syrian rebels and jihadis.
Trump met with Putin on the sidelines of the regional economic summit in Vietnam on Saturday and both submitted a joint statement about the conflict in Syria. They spoke three times in total at the summit.
“President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria,” the statement read. It said that the pair agreed to “maintain open military channels of communication” in Syria “until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.”
Trump said the joint agreement with Russia was going to “save tremendous numbers of lives” and that the two countries had agreed on the statement “very quickly.”
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Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said: “We seem to have a very good feeling for each other, a good relationship considering we don't know each other well. I think it's a very good relationship.”
Russia has claimed that the U.S. is pretending to battle ISIS repeatedly in recent months. The Pentagon last month called it a “ridiculous” Russian propaganda campaign after Moscow accused Washington of slowing its battle against ISIS in Iraq to allow militant to move to the Syrian frontlines against Russian and Syrian troops.
“The actions of the Pentagon and the coalition demand an explanation. Is their change of tack a desire to complicate as much as they can the Syrian army's operation?” Major-General Igor Konashenkov asked last month.
The military chief asked if the U.S. had made an “artful move to drive Islamic State terrorists out of Iraq by forcing them into Syria and into the path of the Russian air force’s pinpoint bombing?”
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