Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States is “playing with fire” with its activities on the common border between Iraq and Syria, especially by backing separatist militants affiliated with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and encourage separatism.
Lavrov said at a press conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, that Washington “fosters separatism among locals of Kurdish-populated regions in Iraq and Syria. It is playing with fire.”
He added, “Americans encourage Kurdish separatism one way or another and ignore other matters, including the territorial integrity of Syria, warning that such an approach “exposes other countries in the region to ensuing dangers and threats.”
Security conditions have been deteriorating in the areas controlled by the US-led SDF in Syria’s northern and northeastern provinces of Raqqah, Hasakah, and Dayr al-Zawr amid ongoing raids and arrests of civilians by the US-sponsored militants.
Locals argue that SDF’s constant raids and arrest campaigns have generated a state of frustration and instability, severely affecting their businesses and livelihoods.
Residents accuse the US-backed militants of stealing crude oil and failing to spend money on service sectors.
Local councils affiliated with the SDF have also been accused of financial corruption. They are said to be embezzling funds provided by donors, neglecting services, and not meeting the basic needs.
The Russian foreign minister went on to note that Moscow continues to work on negotiations within the Astana format for the peaceful settlement of Syria conflict, and regards the peace talks as useful.
“We consider Iraq's observer status at the Astana talks, with Iran, Russia and Turkey acting as the guarantor states, to be very useful. We will continue our interactions and welcome participation of Iraq as an observer. Jordan and Lebanon also play the same role,” Lavrov said.
The Russian foreign minister went on to speak of a “vital importance” to “safeguard” bilateral economic ties with Iraq against “illegal sanctions” imposed on his country by the United States and its allies due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Lavrov said Russia had already invested some $13 billion in Iraq, arguing that Russian oil companies have not received outstanding payments because of the West’s coercive measures.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the top Russian diplomat underlined the importance of the Palestinian issue, saying that the West is procrastinating resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Hussein, for his part, termed Lavrov’s visit to Iraq as a remarkable development, stressing that Baghdad and Moscow will discuss problems linked to the work of Russian companies and Russian financial dues in the Arab country through meetings of the joint committee between the two sides.
The Iraqi foreign minister said he would discuss the issue of cooperating with Russian companies during an upcoming visit to the US.
Hussein said he would insist the US should refrain from imposing sanctions on Iraqi companies for working with Russian partners in Iraq.
He also touched on the Ukraine crisis, stating that Iraq demands a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, and calls for an end to the crisis through sincere dialogue between the two countries.