President Vladimir Putin said on Friday the Russian air force had already struck some targets in Syria identified by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a fact he said disproved allegations Moscow was bombing the moderate opposition.
Putin says Russia has struck targets identified by Free Syrian Army
Putin, speaking ahead of a meeting of the G20 in Turkey, also said Russia had all the necessary financial and technical means to continue its air campaign in Syria for as long as the Syrian army needed Russia's support.
The United States and the FSA itself have both accused the Kremlin of bombing FSA targets, while largely sparing Islamic State militants. Russia says it is careful to only target what it deems to be bona fide terrorist groups in Syria.
"We are ready to take into account any reliable information on the location of terrorist groups. We have even worked together with the Free Syrian Army," Putin told Interfax and the Turkish Anadolu news agencies in an interview, the text of which was passed to Reuters by the Kremlin.
"The Russian air force has conducted several strikes on targets identified by the FSA. We excluded areas, which had been indicated by FSA commanders as being under their control. This fact proves once again that we are not bombing the so-called moderate opposition or the civilian population."
He also reiterated Russia's long-standing position that it would not discuss the political future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with him as it is a matter for the Syrian people.
Turning to G20 host Turkey, Putin said Moscow's differences with Ankara over the Syria crisis were real but should not damage bilateral ties.
"It is true that the two countries have different views on the ways to resolve the crisis in Syria. But the important thing is ... we both stand for settling the situation in the region and effectively combating terrorism," Putin said.
"With this in mind, the existing differences should not hamper our bilateral relations," he said.
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