WASHINGTON: A senior US general accused Russia on Tuesday of playing a destabilizing role in Syria and acting as “both arsonist and firefighter,” as a brief truce unilaterally declared by Moscow in the eastern Ghouta region collapsed.
The United States and Russia have been on different sides of the multi-sided seven-year-war, with Russia being the key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad whose forces are besieging eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held area near Damascus.
“Diplomatically and militarily, Moscow plays both arsonist and firefighter, fueling tensions among all parties in Syria… then serving as an arbitrator, to resolve disputes, attempting to undermine and weaken each party’s bargaining positions,” said US Army General Joseph Votel.
Votel is the head of the US military’s Central Command. He was speaking to a House of Representatives Armed Ser-vices Committee hearing. Over the past week, Syria’s army and its allies have subjected eastern Ghouta to one of the heaviest bombardments of the war, killing hundreds.
A Russian call for a five-hour truce on Tuesday failed to halt the bombing, with residents saying that government warplanes had resumed striking the region after a brief lull.
The United Nations said it was proving impossible to aid civilians or evacuate the wounded, and said all sides must instead abide by a full 30-day cease-fire demanded by the UN Security Council.
Votel said Russia had failed to rein in its Syrian ally.
“I think either Russia has to admit that it is not capable, or it doesn’t want to play a role in ending the Syrian conflict. I think their role is incredibly destabilizing at this point.”
As Daesh militants near defeat in Syria, tensions between the United States and Russia have risen and added uncertainty to an already complex battlefield of opposing local fighters and their international backers, which also include Turkey and Iran.