US asks Russia to not hit Nusra Front in Syria, Moscow says

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2016 2:56 PM
US asks Russia to not hit Nusra Front in Syria, Moscow says

MOSCOW (AP) — Washington has asked Moscow not to target the al-Qaida's branch in Syria, the Nusra Front, for fear of hitting the moderate opposition, Russia's foreign minister said Friday.

Sergey Lavrov said that Russia long has insisted that the moderate, U.S.-backed opposition groups should leave the areas occupied by Nusra. He said in televised remarks that Russia and the U.S. have engaged in close dialogue on how to secure a cease-fire in Syria, but added that fighting the Islamic State group and Nusra should be a top priority.

"They are telling us not to hit it (Nusra), because there is 'normal' opposition next .. to it," Lavrov said. "But that opposition must leave terrorists' positions, we long have agreed on that."

Russia first set a deadline for Syrian opposition units to withdraw from areas occupied by Nusra, but then agreed to give them more time to pull out.

In Paris, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters that he discussed the upsurge in violence in Syria in Friday's phone call with Lavrov.

Kerry said the two talked for an hour and worked specifically on "ways to try to strengthen the enforcement and accountability for this cessation. We have good ideas but we're not there yet."

Despite a Russia- and U.S.-brokered truce in Syria that began on Feb .27, fighting has continued to rage in many areas, particularly around the city of Aleppo, trapping civilians in the cross-fire between government and opposition forces.

On Thursday, the Russian military flew one of the victims, 11-year old Sidra Zaarur, who lost both legs in the shelling of Aleppo in April for treatment in Moscow.