US not 'touching' al-Nusra militants in Syria: Russia

Moscow—Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned against the threat of the Takfiri Jabhat Fateh al-Sham militant group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, as the main source of violence in Syria's Eastern Ghouta region, censuring the US for not taking any serious action against the terror group.

"Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the main problem in Eastern Ghouta, as I mentioned, is consciously or unconsciously being treated equally with the critics and accusers of the Syrian government. Jabhat al-Nusra is not being touched," Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Uzbek counterpart Abdulaziz Kamilov in Moscow on Friday.

"We still do not have evidence that the coalition led by the United States is viewing Jabhat al-Nusra as a real target. Of course, we draw the attention of our American colleagues to it, but we do not see any effect from our comments,” he added.

Eastern Ghouta near Damascus has witnessed renewed violence in the past few days, with terrorists mounting repeated mortar attacks on the Syrian capital in the face of an imminent rout.

The top Russian diplomat pointed to the latest ceasefire proposal for Eastern Ghouta at the UN Security Council and argued that the initiative fails to provide any guarantee that militants will stop the ongoing violence.

The 30-day ceasefire plan, drafted by Sweden and Kuwait, is aimed at allowing deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.

"There are [no] answers to the questions of the guarantees that militants will obey this humanitarian pause and that they will not continue shelling the residential districts of Damascus. These guarantees are not given to us,” Lavrov said.

On Thursday, Lavrov expressed Moscow's readiness to consider the ceasefire in Syria, but only if it does not cover the Daesh, the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups that "conduct systematic shelling of the residential quarters of Damascus."

According to Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, no agreement has been reached at the United Nations Security Council on the ceasefire plan as the conflict deepens in the Arab country due to a sharp rise in terrorist attacks.

The Security Council was scheduled to vote on the ceasefire proposal on Friday, but the voting was delayed to Saturday due to disagreements among council members.

Lavrov also pointed to the ongoing Astana process for the Syrian peace settlement and argued that the West seeks to undermine the initiative as it blocks the ongoing efforts to disintegrate Syria.

Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing the Astana talks since January 2017. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process.

Russia and Iran are Syrian government allies. Turkey is an ally of the Syrian opposition. The collective efforts of the three countries, including the brokering of agreements that have significantly reduced fighting in Syria, have made an impact on the ground in the Arab country.

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