Kerry warns Russia increasing Assad support will exacerbate Syria conflict

US Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart that Moscow’s decision to intensify support for Syria’s President Assad risks extending the country’s bloody civil war.

During the past week, American and NATO assessments have estimated that Russia has sent a number of battle tanks to Syria and that Moscow is planning on establishing a base at Latakia, having already despatched military advisers and technicians in support of the Assad regime. The Times online says today that Russia warplanes are expected in Syria within two weeks.

Yesterday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin confirmed the decision to bolster support for Assad. At a conference of former-Soviet Union states, he said, “We support the government of Syria in its effort to counter terrorist aggression … We provide and will continue to provide military assistance. We call on other countries to join with us.”

US State Department spokesman John Kirby said that Kerry had consequently spoken to Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the third time in ten days and had “made clear that Russia’s continued support for President Assad risks exacerbating and extending the conflict, and undermining our shared goal of fighting extremism.”

Echoing Kirby’s comments, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said, “We’ve made clear that further support, military or otherwise, for the Assad regime is destabilizing and counter-productive, principally because Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead that country.”

Kerry will travel to London later this week to further discuss the situation in Syria with Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and their counterpart from the United Arab Emirates.

Several Western analysts and commentators have said that Russia’s active intervention in Syria is indicative of an attempt to challenge Western influence in the region. Meanwhile, Ynet reported last week that Israeli military sources believe that hundreds of elite Iranian troops have been sent to Syria in coordination with Moscow, in a joint attempt to protect Assad’s embattled rule.

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