Russia could be trying to carve out an Alawite mini-state in Syria for its ally President Bashar al-Assad by bombing his opponents instead of fighting Islamic State militants, a top British official said on Tuesday.
“Is Russia really committed to a peace process or is it using the peace process as a fig leaf to try to deliver some kind of military victory for Assad that creates an Alawite mini state in the northwest of Syria?” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, according to Reuters.
Speaking to reporters in Rome, Hammond dismissed Russian criticism that he was spreading “dangerous disinformation”, the report said.
The British official said there is a limit to how long Russia can pose as a promoter of the peace process while bombing Assad’s opponents.
The comments reflect growing frustration in Western capitals about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in Syria, which is seen as worsening the civil war in the country.
When Russia began air strikes in September, Putin tilted the war in Assad’s favor, after major setbacks earlier in 2015 brought rebel groups close to the coastal heartland of his Alawite sect.
The Kremlin says the West is playing with fire by trying to topple Assad.
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