December 2015 – SYRIA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Friday for the border between Turkey and Syria to be closed as matter of urgency. Russia clearly sees “a growing need to close the Turkish-Syrian border as an urgent measure”, Lavrov told a Mediterranean dialogue conference in Rome. “If we want to fight ISIL in an effective way we have to abandon double games and whatever form of support for extremists, not to mention terrorists, as happened Nov. 24 when a Russian fighter bomber employed in an anti-terrorism operation was shot down,” Lavrov said. The Nov. 24 downing of a Russian SU-24 bomber came after the crew ignored repeated warnings from the Turkish military and violated Turkey’s airspace. Russia argues a different version of events.
The Russian foreign minister added that air raids alone would not defeat ISIL and that Syrian army operations on the ground were essential. “It is clear that ISIL can’t be defeated by air raids. The struggle on the ground by the Syrian army is essential,” Lavrov said. “If the struggle against ISIL is correlated only to oust” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, “this means closing one’s eyes and somehow supporting ISIL actions. I believe that an understanding of this vision is maturing in the West,” he said. Lavrov also disclosed that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Moscow next Wednesday Dec.15.
Italian PM calls for cooperation against ISIL in North Africa
At the opening of the Rome Conference for Mediterranean Dialogue on Friday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that the “destruction of ISIL is the absolute priority” and called for international cooperation to help drive the extremist militia out of North Africa. Over 200 leaders, from fields including politics, diplomacy, business, media and culture, including Russian and British foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov and Philip Hammond, were taking part in the conference, which was to conclude Saturday. –WB