Questioned whether Russian air strikes had hit Islamic State positions in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says “don’t listen to Pentagon about the Russian strikes.”
UNITED NATIONS (SEPTEMBER 30, 2015) (RESTRICTED POOL) – Russia and the United States faced off at the United Nations on Wednesday (September 30) over parallel air campaigns against Islamic State in Syria, with both sides claiming legitimacy for their actions but differing over the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hours after Russia launched its first air strikes, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a Security Council meeting that Moscow would liaise with the U.S.-led coalition of Western allies and regional states that has been flying missions for a year.
The United States, France and other allies questioned whether the Russian planes had hit Islamic State positions, as Moscow said, saying they were in fact aimed at Western-backed rebels who have fought both Islamic State and Assad’s forces.
Ahead of bilateral meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Lavrov took a question from a journalist about the targets of the Russian strikes.
“Mr. Foreign Minister, the Pentagon has already expressed questions for the motives and targets in Syria. Who did the Russian military strike today?” one reporter said off camera.
Lavrov dismissed any claims by the Pentagon on the Russian strikes.
“Did you say something about Pentagon? Everything was said by the Russian Minister of Defense. Don’t listen to Pentagon about the Russian strikes,” Lavrov said.
The Russian attacks occurred before Moscow and Washington had begun agreed talks on “deconfliction”: averting clashes between different militaries operating in the same theater. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting at the United Nations on Monday, had agreed that such consultations would take place.
The U.S.-led coalition informed Syria when it began air strikes a year ago but did not seek permission.
Coalition members say they are acting in collective self-defense at the request of neighboring Iraq. Russia has justified its strikes by saying Syria requested its military assistance.