Yesterday Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed the US over the State Department’s response to last week’s attack that killed senior regime officials in Damascus, accusing the US of endorsing terrorism.
“This is direct endorsement of terrorism. How are we supposed to understand that?” Sergey Lavrov shared his astonishment at a press conference in Moscow. “This is a sinister position, I cannot find words to express our attitude towards that.”
From the other side, here’s the State Department’s daily press briefing from July 25th, with Victoria Nuland responding to the Russian claim:
QUESTION: Small thing. The Russian Foreign Minister has accused the U.S. Government and yourself in particular of trying to justify terrorism in Syria. And in particular, he criticizes the failure of the U.S. Government to itself condemn the attack that resulted in the deaths of the senior Syrian security officials last week. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the day of the attack, we were asked here, and we made absolutely clear that we condemn violence in any form inside Syria. We’ve said that from the beginning of this conflict. We condemn all terrorist attacks, all bombings of targets, of civilians. The bombing of the Defense Ministry, however, targeted senior military and security officials.
So without condoning these tactics by any means, because we don’t condone violence of any kind, and we did condemn the bombing at the time, I would note that these were not civilians. These were the organizers of Assad’s military campaign who lost their lives.
QUESTION: So wait a minute. Just so I’m clear, so you regard this as sort of a legitimate target, therefore?
MS. NULAND: As I said, we do not condone violence of any kind. But to draw the implication that these were innocents who were targeted is also wrong.
QUESTION: You do not condone violence of any kind inside Syria?
MS. NULAND: Correct. Moving on? Anything else on Syria?
QUESTION: We – I remember getting into an exchange with Patrick about this on that very day, and in fact, I don’t think you did use the word “condemn.” What – the language was, “We do not welcome further violence.” And then the next line of the – of it was that – was noting exactly what you just said, that these were not good guys. These were bad guys who lost their lives. So I asked if – “Is it a bad thing,” after the first sentence, and then after the second sentence, “Is it a good thing,” and we didn’t get anywhere on that. So you’re saying now that you do condemn the –
MS. NULAND: We’ve said from the beginning of this we don’t think violence is the way out of this at all, and we want to see a peaceful resolution of this. That said, who bears responsibility for the preponderance of violence in Syria? Who is the one who is using now fixed-wing aircraft against their own people – helicopters, artillery, gunships, et cetera? It is the Assad regime. And as we’ve said, it is unfortunately not surprising that people are trying to defend themselves now.
Moving on? Anything else on Syria? No?