From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Russian Federation
14 October 201517:25
Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 14, 2015
The situation in Syria
The military and political situation in Syria is unfolding dynamically. The Russian Aerospace Forces (ASF) continue to deliver air strikes on strongholds and infrastructure facilities operated by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. The Defence Ministry reports on them in detail on a daily basis. There have been instances when foreign terrorists left their positions for neighbouring states. The Syrian army is pressing ahead with an offensive against terrorists in the provinces of Hama, Idlib, Latakia and outside Aleppo. Several towns and villages have been liberated.
In the early morning of October 13, a US transport aircraft, escorted by fighter jets, airdropped 50 tonnes of weapons and ammunition over the province of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria, which Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed in his interview with NTV yesterday. Officially, the cargo was intended for some little-known armed units, the commanders of which allegedly expressed their willingness to fight ISIS. Frankly, hearing such news, and this is a proven fact, one can’t help wondering whose hands these weapons will end up in, and what harvest this will yield. I don’t believe anyone has a clear answer to this question, and no one knows who will wind up with these weapons in the end.
The Russian Embassy in Damascus came under mortar fire on October 13, as we reported through our Embassy. The terrorist attack was carried out amid an outrageous anti-Russian information and propaganda incitement campaign launched in the wake of Russia’s air strikes against international terrorists in Syria. We hope that yesterday’s shelling, which just avoided turning into a tragedy, will make those think twice who groundlessly accuse us of “indiscriminate” air strikes. Again, the question arises: what kind of outcome are those who foment this information and incitement campaign seeking to achieve?
On the same day, some media, clearly biased, cited Mohammad al-Julani, the leader of Jabhat al-Nusra – the Syrian branch of Al-Qaeda – as he called upon other international terrorists to kill Russian soldiers wherever they are. This is what we have been talking about, but this time it is in the context of the Syrian crisis. Few publications have quoted al-Julani’s words in full, noting that, according to him, not Russia but the “Western crusaders” are the primary enemies of the terrorist movement. This is a selective approach to providing information. Importantly, not a word was said in today’s stories about Russia’s position, rather, the coverage focused on ISIS statements exclusively.
We’ve been constantly calling upon the Syrian internal and external opposition to objectively assess the reality and the situation. In this regard, we note that the Istanbul-based National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces has, in fact, announced a boycott of the efforts by UN Secretary General Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura, and is losing its credibility and influence with every passing day. The Istanbul-based opposition is clearly unable to back its alleged status as “the only legitimate” representative of the Syrian people.
During our intensive contacts with Damascus, international and regional partners, we clearly identify and stress that there’s no alternative to a political settlement in Syria through a broad-based inter-Syrian dialogue in accordance with the Geneva communiqué of June 30, 2012.
Let me draw your attention to another interesting argument, which everyone is talking about all the time and is accusing Russia of. We keep hearing that Russia shouldn’t support Bashar al-Assad, because he is the reason for the increased terrorist activities in Syria. We’ve been saying for a long time now that we do not provide support to al-Assad, and we believe it is important to preserve the Syrian state. They are trying to convince us that if Assad goes, the terrorist activity will subside, as ISIS is fighting precisely because of him. If so, this logic means outright compliance with the terrorist demands. Reading it otherwise is impossible. Frankly, it’s unsettling to hear that the civilised world suggests satisfying the demands of international terrorists. Previously, when it came to international terrorism and terrorist acts, the world spoke with one voice and acted decisively. Nobody proposed meeting the terrorists’ demands in order to weaken their influence or minimise their impact. On the contrary, everyone was talking about the need to step up the fight against these groups.
Russian cruise missiles allegedly crash in Iran
I would like to return to the issue that has been most actively discussed lately, about the four Russian cruise missiles that allegedly crashed in Iran. If you remember, the news was blared out by all the world’s media outlets, citing unnamed Pentagon sources. To avoid making unfounded claims or political assessments, I will give you specific examples.
We always quote the media sources in which we read certain statements, but that does not help. So I will directly address people. I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN Worldwide. Mr Zucker, CNN’s coverage of this issue devoted only as many as two lines to Russia’s denial of the false information about the alleged missile crash in Iran – in the lead-in and in a question to a guest, followed by a great story by a Pentagon correspondent about how it is a shame for the Russian arms industry and that there is no doubt that the missiles did crash. Anyway, the denial was given 15 seconds, while explanations, clarifications, and assurances that the Russian missiles did fall got about six minutes. If you, Mr Zucker, think this is the way for a media outlet to prepare material, well I have doubts about it.
Voice of America. I am addressing Mr John Lansing. Mr Lansing, in the news report, Voice of America did not show even the slightest doubt that the Russian missile crash is a proven fact, or even consider that it might require revalidation. The report began with the flat line: “Four Russian cruise missiles crashed in Iran,” full stop, investigative report completed. It provided references to an unnamed American source, as if citing this person gives one the right to say just anything – it sounded like such an ultimate truth source. Russia’s denial is included among other things, in the middle of the piece, where no one pays it any attention.
Next. Al Jazeera English. Mr Giles Trendle, please note that the lead-in and comments include one line that mentions Moscow’s insistence on the fact that all the missiles have reached their targets, followed by a large “voiceover” laying out the US Department of State’s point of view.
If you’re talking about Russian missiles in the first place, at least make an effort to add Russia’s take on the issue. On the other hand, when you talk about how the Islamic State has obtained so many Toyota vehicles, for example – and we will discuss that later − that’s when you need to give the position of the US Department of State. In my opinion, that is only fair. As it is, where did the story come from? Very simple. The US Department of Defence mentioned some Russian missiles that crashed in Iran. Responding to a question during a press conference, the US Secretary of Defence said there were certain signs that pointed that way. That was all the competence of the Secretary of Defence.
I also liked how the ICAO became worried about the safety of flights over the area where 26 Russian cruise missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea. As to the objectivity of their evaluation, I would like to remind you that in May−June 2014, we repeatedly informed the ICAO Council, in particular, the officials representing this organisation, of the potential danger of crossing the airspace over the eastern part of Ukraine. Even before the Malaysian Boeing tragedy, we repeatedly insisted that the ICAO leadership should focus on the safety of flying over Ukraine. We warned them about a full-scale military operation going on there, involving Ukrainian Air Force flights and ballistic missiles. In response, we were told that due to the “political sensitivity” of the issue, no action would be taken until the moment the tragedy occurred. So they were motivated by “political sensitivity” then. Gentlemen, you have to decide: if you are so fussy about “political sensitivity,” then let’s quote some facts when talking about cruise missiles that allegedly crashed somewhere, and if you’re all for objective and unbiased coverage of facts, then again – why keep changing your position and manipulating facts?