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MIDEAST >Russia, US in row over coalition strikes on Syrian forces

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Russia condemned on May 19 strikes by the U.S.-led coalition against Syrian forces as “unacceptable,” state media reported, after the bombing of pro-government troops.  

“Any military actions that lead to a deterioration in the situation in Syria obviously impact the political process,” deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted as saying by state-run RIA Novosti in Geneva.

“Such actions that were carried out against the Syrian armed forces... this is completely unacceptable, this is a breach of Syrian sovereignty,” he said.  

U.S.-led warplanes carried out on May 18 a strike in the east of the country against a convoy of pro-government forces headed towards a remote coalition garrison near the border with Jordan.

In a statement, the U.S.-led coalition said it had struck “pro-regime forces... that posed a threat to U.S. and partner forces.”  

The coalition said the strike came after unsuccessful “Russian attempts to dissuade Syrian pro-regime movement” as well as “a coalition aircraft show of force, and the firing of warning shots.” Russia and Iran have deployed forces to Syria to back up leader Bashar al-Assad while the U.S. and many of its regional and Western allies have called for the strongman to leave power.

Syria also condemned the strike as a “brazen attack” and said it would “not be intimidated” after the surprise assault.

“On Thursday [May 18] at 16:30, the so-called international coalition attacked one of the Syrian Arab Army’s positions on the Al-Tanf road in the Syrian Badia region, producing a number of martyrs and causing material damage,” a military source told Syrian state media.

“This brazen attack by the so-called international coalition exposes the falseness of its claims to be fighting terrorism,” it added.

“The Syrian Arab Army is fighting terrorism on its territory, and no party has the right to determine the course of its operations,” the source said.

“The Syrian Arab Army will... not be intimidated by the attempts of the so-called coalition to stop it from performing its sacred duties.”

The United States in April infuriated the Kremlin by bombing a Syrian regime air base in response to an alleged chemical attack by Damascus.  

Representatives of Syria’s government and opposition High Negotiations Committee were in Switzerland for the sixth round of U.N.-backed peace negotiations, but there has been little sign of progress.  

In the first concrete results from talks this week on ending Syria’s conflict, the United Nations said the warring sides had agreed to set up expert committees to discuss “constitutional issues.”

Another deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, told TASS news agency that Russia “supports” the move.

May/18/2017

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