BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria (all times local):
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has criticized the U.S. for undermining the Syrian government’s offensive against Islamic State fighters.
Russia on Wednesday called off much-anticipated talks with a senior U.S administration official in response to a fresh round of U.S. sanctions on Russia and expressed its disappointment over the U.S. shooting down a Syrian government jet earlier this week.
In an apparent reference to the downing of the jet, Lavrov told Tillerson in a phone call that the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Thursday that it “violates the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic and harms the task of fighting terrorists and progress in settling the Syria crisis.”
A senior Russian lawmaker says Russia is negotiating with two Central Asian nations about sending their troops to monitor a cease-fire in some areas of Syria.
State-owned RIA Novosti news agency on Thursday quoted Vladimir Shamanov, head of the defense committee at the State Duma, as saying that Russia has asked Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, two former Soviet republics, to send their troops to Syria where Russia is backing President Bashar Assad. Shamanov said no firm decision has been made yet.
Russia’s envoy to Syria earlier said Russia and Iran would send their troops to monitor “de-escalation zones” in Syria and that other countries might join them there.
A senior Turkish official says Russia has proposed deploying troops from Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to Syria, to monitor de-escalation zones there.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also told a group of reporters that Russia and Turkey may send their troops to monitor a zone in Idlib, in northern Syria.
Russia and Iran would monitor another zone near Damascus while the United State and Jordan would observe the Dera region, Kalin said.
His words were carried by Hurriyet newspaper’s online edition on Thursday.
President Emmanuel Macron says France is no longer pushing for the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a shift in French policy throughout the Syrian war.
Macron said in an interview with eight European newspapers published on Thursday that he wants to work more closely with Russia for a solution in Syria and says foreign powers were too focused on Assad as a person.
Macron says: “The new outlook I have on this issue is that I haven’t stated that Bashar Assad’s departure is a necessary condition for everything. Because no one has shown me a legitimate successor.”
Macron’s predecessors were among the most vocal Assad opponents.
However, Macron warned France would attack Syria if the government uses chemical weapons. French warplanes are already targeting Islamic State extremists in Syria.
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