Russia rejects NATO's allegation of "undermining" Syria peace talks

The Kremlin on Friday promptly rejected an allegation by NATO's secretary general that intense Russian airstrikes in Syria had derailed peace negotiations between the government and opposition groups.

"We don't consider that opinion to be true. We cannot agree with it," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

"Russia is providing support to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic in its fight against terrorism - against terrorist groups - and at the same time is making efforts on the political-diplomatic track," Peskov was quoted as saying.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier in the day that Russian airstrikes in Syria were "undermining" efforts to resolve the country's conflict, as peace talks were recently suspended amid a military onslaught by the Syrian regime.

Russia has drawn Western criticism for supporting the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - a close ally of Moscow - with a bombing campaign launched against insurgents in September.

A US-led coalition is also conducting airstrikes in Syria, targeting the Islamic State extremist group.

Many Western and regional powers have criticized Russia for striking areas held by rebel groups they support.

UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva were paused this week amid a surge in violence during a campaign by regime forces - backed by Russian airstrikes - on rebel-held areas in Aleppo.

The Russian airstrikes, mainly targeting opposition groups in Syria, are "undermining the efforts to find a political solution to the conflict," Stoltenberg said in Amsterdam on Friday, before holding talks with EU defence ministers.

The Russian air activity is also "causing increased tensions and violations of Turkish airspace," the NATO chief noted, calling this a "challenge" for the alliance, of which Turkey is a member.

The traditionally warm relations between Moscow and Ankara have soured after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane in November for allegedly violating Turkish airspace - a charge Russia denies.

On Thursday, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman said Russian warplanes had bombed about 900 "terrorist" targets in Syria in the past four days.

The targets were located in the provinces of Aleppo, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Deir ez-Zor, General Igor Konashenkov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

On Monday, he said that Russian warplanes had bombed more than 1,300 targets the previous week.

Last update: Fri, 05/02/2016 - 20:39

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