Russia on Friday condemned US strikes on Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria, demanding that Washington respect the country’s territorial integrity.
“We strongly condemn such actions and call for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be unconditionally respected,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.
Russia has been a key ally of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime throughout the Syrian conflict that erupted in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests, and Moscow’s military intervention in 2015 helped turn the tide of the war.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for his part, said Russia wanted to know Washington’s plans in Syria and suggested that the United States had no plans to ever leave the country.
“Lately we’ve been hearing various information from various sources — so far we cannot confirm it and would like to ask the Americans directly,” Lavrov told reporters.
“Allegedly they are taking a decision to never leave Syria at all … up to the point of destroying this country.”
He said the Russian and US militaries were in touch over Syria but stressed it was important for the two countries’ political teams to be in contact.
“It is very important for us to understand the United States’ strategic line on the ground and in the region as a whole,” Lavrov said.
He also complained that the Russian military had been notified just four or five minutes before the US struck the targets on Thursday.
“This sort of warning — when strikes are already underway — gives (us) nothing,” Lavrov said.
Zakharova reiterated Russia’s long-standing position that Moscow rejected any attempts to turn Syria into “an arena to settle geopolitical scores”.
In its first military action against Iran-linked groups since Joe Biden became US president five weeks ago, the Pentagon said it had carried out air strikes on Thursday at a Syria-Iraq border control point used by Iran-backed groups.
The operation killed at least 22 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group.