Syria would request Russian troops to join anti-Daesh fight (if needed)
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem says the Damascus government would ask for the deployment of Russian military forces to the crisis-hit country in case the ongoing foreign-sponsored militancy takes a turn for the worse.
“There is no joint fighting on the ground with Russian troops, but if we felt such a need, we would study it and demand,” Muallem told state-run Syrian television network on Thursday.
“So far the Syrian army is able (on its own) and what we need frankly is more of the ammunition and qualitative weapons to face the type of qualitative weapons of these terrorist groups,” he added.
Russian military support is so far restricted to arms supplies and training on new weapons from Russia, Muallem said, adding that his country’s relations with Moscow are strategic.
The remarks came on the same day that a Syrian military source, requesting not to be identified, said the Syrian army has recently started using new types of Russian-built air and ground weapons.
“The weapons are highly effective and very accurate, and hit targets precisely. We can say they are all types of weapons – be it air or ground,” Reuters quoted the source as saying, adding that Syrian army forces have received training in the use of the weapons in recent months, and are now deploying them.
On Wednesday, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar Ja’afari said Russia should be able to carry out airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, similar to the US air raids against purported Daesh positions.
“Why are the Americans fighting ISIL (Daesh) with their fighter jets and the Russians should be forbidden from that?” Ja’afari said, adding, “Does it make sense? It doesn’t make sense.”
On September 14, Syria’s Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad dismissed as a “lie” Western allegations that Russian soldiers are fighting alongside their Syrian counterparts.
“Any talk about presence of Russian troops in Syria is a lie propagated by Western countries and the United States,” he said in an interview with Russian-language Rossiya-24 news network.
Haddad noted that Russian munitions are being supplied to the Syrian military “under the agreements that were signed” between the two countries “rather long ago.”
Speaking at a press briefing in Moscow on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said her country “primarily” supports “Syria in its struggle against” Daesh Takfiri militants in a bid “to avert a total catastrophe in the region.”
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied speculations that Moscow is engaged in a military buildup in Syria as suggested by the US and NATO. However, he added that Russia would continue to send military equipment to the Syrian government and humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
Lavrov has said military experts would inevitably accompany the arms consignments to Syria in order to train Syrian soldiers on how to use them.
The conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has reportedly claimed about 250,000 lives up until now.
The violence has also forced four million Syrians to take refuge in neighboring countries, including Jordan and Lebanon. More than 7.2 million others have been displaced within Syria, according to the United Nations.