World Bulletin / News Desk
Up to 90 percent of Russia’s airstrikes have targeted moderate Syrian forces, not ISIL, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday.
“Eighty-five to 90 percent of Russian strikes have hit the moderate Syrian opposition and they have killed civilians in the process,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson said during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Russia has maintained that its sorties in Syria are targeting ISIL, but the U.S. and its allies have dismissed the claim.
The air campaign has cost the country, which is in the midst of a biting recession, $2 to $4 million per day, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland added while testifying with Patterson.
The Syrian government’s recent offensives, aided by Russian airstrikes, have displaced more than 123,000 people, the UN said earlier this week.
“The regime continues to barrel bomb its own citizens with impunity, perhaps even emboldened by Moscow's help,” Nuland said, adding that Russian casualties in Syria “are also reportedly on the rise, although the Kremlin is again working overtime to mask them and silence the loved ones of the lost.''
"What would positive cooperation by Russia look like?" she asked. "First, Russia would turn its guns on ISIL and stop the carnage in and around Syria's western cities. As the price of its support, Moscow would insist that Assad ground the helicopters and planes that he's using to barrel bomb innocents on a daily basis."
Without elaborating, Nuland said U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against ISIL could produce an area in northern Syria where civilians could be safe from hardliners and Syrian government forces.
“As we accelerate our own work with Turkey and other like-minded partners to roll back ISIL in northern Syria, a collateral benefit could be the creation of a space where Syrian civilians are free from Assad's barrel bombs, as well as ISIL's atrocities,” she said.
But logistical complexities of implementing a safe zone could negate the viability of doing so, Patterson said.
Noting that a potential safe zone in Northern Syria would be “hugely complex and resource-intensive,” she said: “We continue to look at this. We continue to study this. But there is no viable option on the table at this time.”
The Syrian civil war has claimed more than 250,000 lives since 2011 and made the country the world's single-largest source of refugees and displaced people.
Nearly 4 million Syrians have become refugees and at least 7.6 million have been internally displaced, according to UN figures.Last Mod: 05 Kasım 2015, 09:25