A US-led coalition airstrike on Syrian government forces highlights the US' willingness to back terrorists attempting to overthrow Syria's ruling regime, charged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday as he condemned the attack.
In making the statement, Lavrov rushed to support Syria, a major Russian ally, a week after his meeting with US President Donald Trump about how the two countries should proceed in the war-torn country, where the US and Russia support a mosaic of armed forces, some in conflict with one another.
"We see the confirmation of an intention to use opposition and some extremists, including (UN-designated terrorist group) Jabhat al-Nusra, in the fight against the legitimate government of Syria," Lavrov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad also condemned the US-led attack against an army position near Syria's border with Iraq and Jordan.
The US-led coalition has maintained that it conducted the airstrike to prevent government forces from advancing inside a protected "deconfliction zone."
"Whatever the reason why the US command made such a decision, the strike was illegitimate and unlawful. It was yet another crude violation of Syria's sovereignty," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov expressed a similar sentiment, saying the strike had made the Syrian peace process more difficult.
Lavrov had met with Trump in the White House for talks that appeared remarkably friendly. Ties between the US and Russia in recent years have fallen to their lowest point since the Cold War as the great powers support opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Russia's neighbour, Ukraine.
The US-led coalition in Syria said Thursday that its planes had struck pro-government forces advancing inside a protected zone north-west of Syria's al-Tanf border area.
The coalition said its forces demonstrated a show of force and fired warning shots before the airstrike.
The Syrian army denounced the bombardment as "blatant aggression."
"The attempt to justify this aggression, by claiming that the targeted forces did not respond to warning against advance, is rejected altogether," a military official said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent monitoring group, said the airstrike had left at least eight people dead, most of them non-Syrian paramilitaries loyal to the regime.
Last month, the US conducted a missile strike against the Syrian regime's Shayrat airbase, which the US said was the launching point for a chemical weapons attack that had killed more than 80 civilians.
Meanwhile, a sixth round of UN-led peace talks in Geneva ended without tangible results.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said late Friday that both sides had agreed to establish expert panels, which would assist the talks going forward.
The next round is expected to take place in June.
By Weedah Hamzah and Peter Spinella
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