EU: Russian Troops in Syria Are a 'Game-Changer'

EU foreign chief Mogherini warns Russian intervention 'very worrying' at meeting on political talks divided over Assad's future.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Federica Mogherini
Federica Mogherini

EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini warned Monday that Russian intervention in Syria was a very high-risk "game-changer," as the international community continues to seek an elusive political solution to the internecine war.

"It is for sure a game-changer, it has some very worrying has to be coordinated, otherwise it risks being extremely dangerous, not only from a political point of view but also military," Mogherini said.

She said Russian military support for long-time Moscow ally President Bashar al-Assad had to be directed against the extremist jihadi fighters of Islamic State (ISIS), not against the rebel groups seeking his ouster backed by the West.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last Friday revealed that no less than 90% of Russian strikes are targeting rebel forces to prop up Assad - many of them funded by the West - instead of ISIS.

Moscow has denied the charges and claimed its air and missile strikes focus on ISIS, but the West argues they seek to bolster Assad's position and let him to retake ground lost in the past 18 months.

The 28-nation European Union is divided over what role Assad can play in a solution to a conflict which has claimed some 250,000 lives so far.

Mogherini refused to be drawn one way or the other as she arrived for an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg dominated by the crisis.

She said the EU would put all its energy to support UN efforts to broker a peace deal, saying "this is a process which has to have all the relevant actors around the table."

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that while there could be some flexibility on working with Assad, there were serious risks too of driving the rebels into the arms of ISIS.

"We are very clear that we cannot work with Assad as the long-term solution for the future of Syria," Hammond said.

"We can be flexible about the manner...the timing of his departure, but if we try to work with Assad, we will only drive the opposition into the arms of ISIS, the very opposite of the outcome that we want," he said.

A draft statement of the meeting's conclusions on Syria seen by AFP refers to a "peaceful and inclusive transition," without mentioning Assad.

It adds however: "There cannot be a lasting peace in Syria under the present leadership and until the legitimate grievances and aspirations of the Syrian society are addressed."

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Sunday that Russia's military actions in Syria were meant to "stabilize the legitimate authorities and create conditions for finding a political compromise."

AFP contributed to this report.