“It’s always difficult to play a double game: declaring a fight against terrorists while simultaneously trying to use some of them to arrange the pieces on the Middle East chess board in one’s own interests,” Putin said at a meeting of political scientists in Sochi known as the Valdai Club.
“It is impossible to prevail over terrorism if some of the terrorists are being used as a battering ram to overthrow undesirable regimes,” Putin said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as their Turkish and Saudi counterparts, in Vienna on Friday for crucial talks on the Syrian conflict, a four-year war that has killed more 250,000 people and forced millions from their homes.
The high-level meeting follows the surprise visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow for talks with Putin on Tuesday, the embattled leader’s first foreign visit since 2011.
Russia — which has pledged to support Damascus militarily, much to the West’s dismay — has insisted the air strikes it has conducted since September 30 in the war-torn country are hitting the Islamic State and other “terrorist” groups, and are being conducted at the Syrian leadership’s request.
But the US and its allies, who are conducting a separate bombing campaign in the country, say Moscow’s strikes are aimed at Western-backed moderate rebels fighting Assad.
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