US-led airstrikes have 'not weakened' Islamic State group
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The Islamic State group "is not weaker" after months of US-led airstrikes, Syria’s foreign minister said in an interview broadcast Friday, adding that it cannot be defeated until Turkey closes its border to prevent the movement of fighters.
A US-led alliance launched airstrikes against Islamic State group targets in Syria in September as part of a wider effort to destroy the jihadist militants that have seized large areas of the country as well as in neighbouring Iraq.
“All the indications say that [Islamic State] today, after two months of coalition air strikes, is not weaker,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said in an interview with the Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV broadcast on Friday.
The Syrian government has said it was willing to join the fight against the militants, but the United States refuses to deal with President Bashar al-Assad, who Washington says has lost legitimacy and must leave power folloing his violent crackdown on anti-regime opponents, which has since erupted into a full-fledged civil war.
“If the Security Council and Washington do not force Turkey to control its borders then all of this action will not eliminate [the Islamic State],” Moualem said, referring to the foreign jihadists who have crossed into Syria from Turkey.
Turkey, which has a 900-km (560-mile) frontier with Syria, has strongly denied accusations that it has supported the militant Islamists – inadvertently or otherwise – in its enthusiasm to help Syrian rebels topple Assad, who is also battling the Islamic State group and other jihadist factions inside Syria.
Thousands of foreign fighters are believed to have joined the Islamist militants in their self-proclaimed caliphate, carved out of eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Moualem said Turkish calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone in northern Syria would lead to the partition of the country, adding that Turkey had designs on Syrian territory.
Turkey has repeatedly said a no-fly zone should be put in place to create safe areas in Syria, allowing Syrian refugees in Turkey to be repatriated. Turkey’s idea has received a cool reception from its allies, with a top NATO general saying this week that the idea was not being considered.
Moualem held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the Black Sea as part of a renewed Russian diplomatic push to restart peace talks on Syria.
The effort is unlikely to succeed, because Russia rejects calls for Assad's departure.
“After our discussions with the Russian side, we agreed that the dialogue will be with the national opposition that is not linked to the outside,” Moualem said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
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