Russian strikes have helped 'turn around' situation in Syria: Lavrov
Air strikes by the Russian military in support of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have helped turn the tide in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.
"The actions of the Russian air force, in response to the request of the Syrian leadership -- have really helped to turn around the situation in the country, helped towards reducing the territory controlled by terrorists," Lavrov said at his main annual press conference.
Russia began a bombing campaign in September last year to back up those fighting for its longstanding ally Assad. Last year its pilots carried out more than 5,000 sorties.
The West has accused Moscow of mainly targeting moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime as well as inflicting civilian casualties, but Moscow insists it is tackling "terrorist" groups such as Islamic State.
Forces backing Assad have recently made several key gains on the ground.
Regime forces backed up by several dozen Russian air strikes overnight captured the rebel stronghold of Sheikh Miskeen close to the border with Jordan, the British-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.
Russian planes from Friday to Sunday carried out 169 flights, bombing almost 500 targets, the Russian defence ministry said Monday.
Talks aiming to end the brutal war that has lasted almost five years are set to begin in Geneva on Friday after delays due to disagreements over who would represent the splintered opposition, United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters.
© 2016 AFP