Russia says UK military welcome in Syria if target terrorism, not Al Assad

Foreign ministers of France and Russia discuss Syria by phone despite severe tensions

Gulf News

Dubai: Russia would welcome British military involvement in the Syria conflict if it targets terrorists but not the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

Britain is looking at its military involvement in Syria but any action would need to be part of a coalition involving the United States and is not likely to happen soon, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.

The British government lost a 2013 parliamentary vote over plans to bomb the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, but has been involved in bombing raids against Daesh in Syria since winning the support of lawmakers last December.

“It is right now that we should be looking again at the more kinetic options, the military options,” Johnson told a committee of lawmakers. “But we must be realistic about how these in fact work, and what is deliverable.”

“We can’t do anything without a coalition, without doing it with the Americans. I think we’re still a pretty long day’s march from getting there but that doesn’t mean that discussions aren’t going on, because they certainly are.” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokeswoman said no decisions had been made about Britain changing its approach in Syria, and the government was looking at a range of options as it seeks to help bring an end to the conflict in Syria.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of France and Russia discussed Syria by telephone Thursday despite severe tensions over the crisis that led President Vladimir Putin to cancel a visit to Paris.

Jean-Marc Ayrault “reaffirmed France’s wish to pursue dialogue with Russia in all frankness,” the French foreign ministry said in a statement after his conversation with Russia’s Sergei Lavrov.

Ayrault stressed “the urgency to break the current impasse ... and achieve a halt in the bombing of Aleppo to allow access for humanitarian aid and open the way for a resumption of negotiations towards a political solution,” the statement said.

A heated row broke out between the two countries after Russia on Saturday used its Security Council veto against a French resolution calling for a halt to the bombing of Aleppo.

French President Francois Hollande accused Syrian troops of committing war crimes in Aleppo with Russian support, comments Putin dismissed as “rhetoric”.

But the row prompted Putin to postpone a visit to Paris scheduled for next week during which he was to inaugurate a spiritual centre next to a new Russian Orthodox church.

Efforts will continue at the weekend to renew a truce in Syria. Lavrov will meet his US counterpart John Kerry in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday as well as representatives from the Gulf states and Turkey.

Kerry is due in London for talks Sunday with representatives from Britain, France and Germany.

— with inputs from agencies