11 Jul 2018 12:30

U.S. trying to undermine Syria's territorial integrity - Shoigu

MOSCOW. July 11 (Interfax-AVN) - The United States is trying to destabilize Syria and stall the settlement process, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.

"It's hard to shake off the impression that the primary goal of the U.S. in Syria is to prevent stabilization in this country, prolong the conflict, and undermine its territorial integrity by creating uncontrolled enclaves in remote areas of Syria," Shoigu said.

"The military presence of the United States in Syria, which is illegal according to international and U.S. law, has been given various explanations over the years," he said.

"Let me remind you that they talked about defeating ISIL [a terrorist group banned in Russia] at first, declared the prevention of ISIL's rebirth as their goal later, and now say the presence in Syria should continue to deter the hypothetical 'Iranian influence,'" Shoigu said.

The training of militants has been taking place in U.S.-held Syrian regions for several years, and these militants are fighting Syrian government forces with weapons and ammunition provided to them, he said.

"I should also say that the areas held by terrorists enlarged during the U.S.-led coalition's fight against ISIL. Civilization and secular government survived in just a few places, such as Damascus, the Latakia province, and, partially, Deir ez-Zor," Shoigu said.

The United States has not spent "a cent to help" the Syrian civilian population, he said. "This is true even of the former ISIL capital, al-Raqqah, freed by the United States and the coalition. Civilians keep dying in daily explosions of ammunition and mines left behind after massive air strikes by the international coalition. Dozens of lives, including those of children, are taken every week," Shoigu said.

No such incidents have been reported in the areas freed by Syrian government forces: they have been cleared of mines and supplied with food and construction material for the rapid restoration of normal life, he said.

"If our American colleagues are pursuing any course of action in Syria, it is too contradictory to be called a strategy," Shoigu said.