US-Russia talks planned in Lausanne as Moscow defends Syria strategy | News | DW | 12.10.2016
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US-Russia talks planned in Lausanne as Moscow defends Syria strategy

The Kremlin has rejected allegations that Russia bombed an aid convoy near Aleppo, citing 'Russophobic hysteria.' Despite the tension, a meeting of US and Russian foreign ministers in Lausanne is planned.

Moscow slammed British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after he lashed out at Russia over their brutal bombing campaign against the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The Kremlin dismissed Johnson's charges as "Russophobic hysteria."

However, despite the tension, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend a
meeting in Lausanne on Saturday  to discuss the Syria crisis.

The ministry said Lavrov and Kerry had agreed to hold the meeting to consider what further steps could be taken to get a Syria settlement and that representatives from Saudi Arabia and Turkey
would also take part in the talks.  

UK-Moscow allegations

On Tuesday British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for protests outside the Russian embassy in London over Moscow's seemingly indiscriminate bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo, which Johnson said was "unquestionably a war crime."

The Kremlin fired back with a retort, reminding Britain of its obligations to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats on British soil.  "Probably the British foreign minister is aware of the Vienna Convention and that Great Britain is duty-bound to take responsibility for the safety of Russian diplomatic missions on its territory," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Other Russian diplomats piled on. Defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov dismissed Johnson's charge, saying, "accusing Russia of all mortal sins" was just a "storm in a teacup."

He added, "The Russophobic hysteria that is regularly fuelled by certain members of the British establishment has not been taken seriously for a long time."

Konashenkov insisted the Russian air force was not responsible for last month's bombing of a UN convoy in the Aleppo region, and accused Britain of withholding the evidence it says it has against Russia.

"The alleged 'evidence' you say you have won't be worth a penny if it is made available to everyone," he said.

Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Kremlin was "truly ashamed for" Johnson over his comments.

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Bombing an aid convoy

Johnson also accused Russia of bombing a humanitarian aid convoy, a charge that Konashenkov dutifully rebutted.

"There were no Russian planes in the area of the aid convoy to Aleppo. That is a fact," he said.

But Johnson insisted there is evidence that would substantiate Russia's hand in the attack.

The Kremlin is supporting, if not orchestrating, a ferocious military assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo. Many civilians have been killed, prompting widespread allegations of war crimes.

In all, more than 300,000 people have been killed in Syria's five year civil war, which has also displaced millions.

The growing tensions between the West and Russia over alleged war crimes in Syria prompted President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to cancel a visit to France.

A day earlier, French President Francois Hollande accused Syrian forces of committing a "war crime" in the battered city of Aleppo with the support of Russian air strikes.

Over the weekend Russia vetoed a UN draft resolution aimed at stopping Russian and Syrian regime air strikes. The United States is pressing for a war crimes probe into the destruction.

bik/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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