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20th Aug 2022

Putin and Assad invite West to anti-IS alliance

  • Putin spoke one day after the EU extended sanctions on his top officials (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has urged the EU and US to join him and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in the fight against Islamic State (IS).

He said at a security summit in Tajikistan on Tuesday (15 September): “Simple common sense, responsibility for global and regional safety require uniting efforts of the international community [to fight] such a threat”.

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“Russia, as you know, has proposed to form a wide coalition to fight extremists without any delay. It [the coalition] should unite everyone who is ready and is already contributing to tackling terrorism”, he added.

“It’s obvious that without the Syrian authorities and the military playing an active role, without the Syrian Army fighting Islamic State on the ground, it’s impossible to drive terrorists from this country”.

For their part, the US, and several EU and Arab states, are already in an anti-IS coalition.

The intervention is limited to air raids, military advice, and training and arming of moderate anti-IS forces, such as the Kurdish Peshmerga.

They are also co-ordinating action with Al-Assad allies Iran, Iraq, and the Hezbollah militia from Lebanon.

But the Western policy is that Al-Assad himself, whose forces have massacred tens of thousands of civilians, must step aside.

Russian support

Putin, in Tajikistan, confirmed that his armed forces are active in Syria.

"We give technical-military support to Damascus and will continue doing it … and we call on other countries to join us in this”, he said.

He blamed prior Western interventions in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and Yemen for creating the regional instability behind the migrant crisis.

"If Russia had not been supporting Syria, the situation in the country would have been worse than in Libya and the refugee flow would have been even bigger," he said.

For his part, Al-Assad told Russian press the same day: “I would like to take this opportunity to call on all forces to unite against terrorism”.

“If you want to implement anything real [in terms of political reform], it’s impossible to do anything while you have people being killed, bloodletting hasn’t stopped”.

Ukraine

Putin spoke one day after the EU extended the duration of its blacklist of 150 Russians and Russian agents held responsible for the Ukraine war.

His Syria project has prompted the US to ask Nato allies Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey to say No to Russian military overflights carrying soldiers and arms to the Middle East country.

The EU’s new top priority is thousands of refugees coming every day from the region via Turkey and the Western Balkans.

Meanwhile, the French and German leaders are to meet Putin in October to discuss terms on Ukraine.

For some analysts, the Syria project is designed to deflect interest from the Ukraine crisis and to rehabilitate Putin on the world stage.

Ulrich Speck, a Russia expert at the German Marshall Fund think tank, wrote on Tuesday that “Ukraine’s resistance against the Russian-led attack in Donbas ... has made it impossible for Moscow to win back control over Ukraine any time soon without a major war”.

He added: “Increasing Russia’s role in Syria presents an opportunity for Putin to put Moscow back in the center of global politics, distract from the quagmire that the Donbas has become, and score points abroad and at home”.

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