Damascus: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in Damascus on Saturday that his country “will not remain passive” as jihadists push an offensive in Syria’s neighbour Iraq.
“Russia will not remain passive to the attempts by some groups to spread terrorism in the region,” Ryabkov told journalists after meeting with President Bashar Al Assad.
Jihadists led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) which is active in both Syria and Iraq, have seized vast territory north and west of Baghdad since launching their offensive two weeks ago.
Ryabkov, whose country is Al Assad’s main backer, did not elaborate on what steps Russia might take.
“The situation is very dangerous in Iraq and the foundations of the Iraqi state are under threat,” he said.
Ryabkov also reiterated Moscow’s position that the crises in Syria and Iraq must be resolved “through a genuine national dialogue”.
Asked about Washington’s decision to support moderate rebels in Syria, Ryabkov said: “There can be no alternative to a political solution.”
He added: “We reject this US policy. It is in everybody’s interest, including the Americans, to act responsibly on Syria.”
President Barack Obama has asked US lawmakers to authorise a $500 million plan to arm and train the Syrian opposition, which has been fighting both Al Assad’s troops and the jihadist Isil.
Ryabkov said Damascus had taken a “responsible” decision in handing over its chemical weapons arsenal, while calling on Israel to “abide by” the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Ryabkov also called on the United States and Europe to take “serious” steps to combat terrorism, warning that several Middle Eastern countries are threatened.
Nearly two hours after Ryabkov’s comments, a car bomb exploded in a busy market in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, activists said. It was not immediately clear how many people were killed or wounded.
The activists said the market was crowded as many people went shopping a day before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when observant Muslims fast from dawn to dusk and feast in the evenings.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion caused extensive damage. The Observatory and an activist in the nearby suburb of Saqba who goes by the name of Abu Yazan said the Islamic State is believed to be behind the blast, because of a rivalry with other rebel groups in the area.
“Hospitals are full of wounded people,” Abu Yazan said via Skype.
Douma, one of the most populous suburbs of Damascus, has been under rebel control for more than two years.
Ryabkov called for confronting terrorism by “taking integral measures against radicalism and by searching for a solution to prevent the influx of fighters from abroad,” adding that terrorism will have “catastrophic repercussions” on the entire region.