Russia's Foreign Minister insists that Moscow refuses to allow Syria to be used as an arena for confrontation between Israel and Iran, as tensions continue to escalate in the country with Israeli air strikes on Iranian targets. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Sergey Lavrov assured Israel that Russia would not allow threats and attacks to be directed towards the occupation state from Syria.
"Our dear Israeli colleagues," said Lavrov, "if you have facts that your state is facing threats from Syrian territory, report the facts urgently and we will take every measure to neutralise the threat."
Lavrov's assurances followed a series of major air strikes by the Israelis on Iranian military sites within Syria. Israel has been targeting these regularly over the past few years in efforts to prevent the strengthening of Iran's presence in the war-torn country.
The Russian Foreign Minister added that his country will not "chase" the US military out of Syria, nor will it engage in hostilities despite being opposed to its presence. US troops are largely based in south-east and east Syria where they guard the oilfields in Deir Ez-Zor province.
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Lavrov reiterated that although Russia will not attack the US military, it will not engage in any dialogue with Washington on a political or diplomatic level with regard to Syria.
"We have contacts with the United States through military channels," he explained, "not because we acknowledge the legitimacy of their presence in Syria, but simply because they must act within the framework of specific rules."
While Russia supports the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the US largely supports the Kurdish militias in the north-east of the country along with some elements of the opposition, Iran has also been a key supporter of Assad. However, Tehran but is often seen as a threat to Moscow's interests and influence in the country.
Moscow and Tehran have been seen as competitors for long-term interests in terms of their relations with the Assad regime, their economic stakes in the country and their military involvement. While both have assisted the regime militarily throughout the ongoing civil war – Russia in aerial power and mercenaries, and Iran in its funding of Damascus and the deployment of Shia militias – they have developed different economic strategies within the country, especially for the post-conflict period.
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