Stop bombing us before talking about helping us…
That is the reaction from Western-backed rebels in Syria to Russia’s offer of support in fighting the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Russian air strikes have hit several rebel groups affiliated to the Free Syrian Army in areas crucial to the survival of Moscow’s ally President Assad.
Among other propositions from Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is a call for Syria to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The Kremlin has spoken broadly about the need for elections in Syria before. But Lavrov’s comments were its most specific call for political renewal yet and came just days after a surprise visit by Assad to Moscow.
Lavrov on Saturday spoke about Syria on the telephone with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been meeting Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
The US has criticised Russia for so far focussing much of its firepower on armed groups supported by the West and its allies rather than ISIL, angering the Kremlin which has said it is impossible to make a distinction between terrorists.
Moscow says Assad must be part of any transition and that the Syrian people will decide who rules them.
Washington has said it could tolerate Assad during a short transition period, but that he would then have to exit the political stage.
Lavrov has called Washington’s refusal to coordinate its Syria campaign with Moscow “a big mistake”.
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