By Joanna Paraszczuk January 11, 2014 11:26 Updated – The Chairman of the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee said on Saturday that the fighting between insurgent factions and the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham weakens Syria’s opposition.Alexey Pushkov said, via his Twitter account, “In Syria, radical Islamists are now fighting against the Free Syrian Army. The results of the schism between the militants deprives them of any chance of beating Assad.”
RIA Novosti, which picked up Pushkov’s tweet almost as soon as he posted it, said that 500 people had been killed as a result of the past week’s fighting between “armed opposition fighters and the Al Qaeda group, ISIS”.
Pushkov has previously been critical of Western moves to arm the Free Syrian Army, telling the BBC in March last year that arming moderates within the opposition “would never work” because they are “too closely aligned with extremists”. He asserted, “If the decision is taken either in Britain, or in the United States, to send weapons there, evidently they will be shared between the so-called moderate forces and the so-called extremist forces.”
Pushkov’s comments come after a week in which the Russian Foreign Ministry has been conspicuous by its silence on the current situation in Syria, and plans for the Geneva II conference, which is supposed to go ahead on January 22.
Late Friday afternoon, the Foreign Ministry announced that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would be discussing plans for Geneva II during January 12-13 meetings in Paris with US Secretary of State John Kerry, and United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. However, the statement did not include any further detail beyond repeating that Lavrov would attend the scheduled meeting in the French capital.