Wednesday 23 May 2018

US respected Russia’s red lines in Syria during air strikes, says Lavrov

Foreign minister said the US had not crossed ‘geographical red lines’

Russia response
Russia response

By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

Russia’s foreign minister has said the US sought out and respected Moscow’s positions in Syria when it launched its air strikes last week.

Sergey Lavrov noted that despite the escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington, the US made sure it did not harm any Russian personnel and positions during the strikes against the regime of President Bashar Assad following a suspected chemical attack on the town of Douma.

“We told them where our red lines were, including the geographical red lines,” Mr Lavrov told Russian state television. “The results have shown that they haven’t crossed those lines.”

Moscow had warned the US before the strike that it could hit back if the US actions jeopardise Russian servicemen in Syria, and the allies gave Russia an advance warning to make sure no Russians were in the line of fire.

Mr Lavrov also revealed that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of visiting each other’s country when the US president rang up Russian counterpart last month to congratulate him on his re-election.

Mr Lavrov said that Mr Trump indicated he could make a reciprocal trip to Russia if Mr Putin were able to accept his invitation to the White House.

Previously, both the White House and the Kremlin had only revealed that Mr Trump had invited Mr Putin to the White House during the same call on March 20.

Mr Lavrov said the Trump administration has not followed up on the offer and Russia has urged the US to discuss specifics about such a meeting.

He added that Russian officials “don’t want to be too obtrusive, but don’t want to be impolite”.

“President Putin is ready for such a meeting,” Mr Lavrov said.

Moscow’s hopes for better ties with Washington under Mr Trump have withered amid the ongoing investigations into the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Russia-US relations have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

In recent weeks, tensions have risen further over the March poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter, which Britain has blamed on Russia.

The US, Britain and other Western allies responded by expelling over 150 Russian diplomats, and Moscow, which has fervently denied the British accusations, responded in kind.

Further stoking tensions was the purported chemical attack in Douma on April 7. That prompted the US, Britain and France to launch a missile strike on Syria. Russia condemned the strike on its ally as an “act of aggression”.

The Pentagon said that all 105 missiles fired at three Syrian chemical facilities reached their targets, while the Russian military said Syrian air defences downed 71 out of 103 US missiles.

Mr Lavrov, who said Russia will soon offer evidence to back up its claims, added that Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with sophisticated long-range S-300 missiles in light of the strikes.

“We no longer have such moral obligations,” Mr Lavrov said.

Asked about the danger of a Russia-US military clash, Mr Lavrov voiced hope that military leaders realise that “any actions that could provoke a direct clash between the Russian and the US militaries are unacceptable”.

Press Association

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