Russia FM says US can do more to rebuild Syria


BEIRUT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the United States and the West could do more to help rebuild war-torn Syria to improve the lives of refugees there.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a summit in Singapore, Lavrov said the US and the EU are only willing to provide “basic humanitarian aid” in Syria, the state news agency reported.

But Lavrov lamented that the US is “is very cautious about reconstructing infrastructure facilities” in Syria. Such an effort is necessary to encourage people to resettle the areas, he said.

Lavrov added that such an approach “will only punish people” living in government-controlled areas and those wanting to return to their homes.

Israel’s defense minister says the situation on the border with Syria has reverted to the way it was “before the civil war” now that Syrian government forces have recaptured the area.

Avigdor Lieberman toured a Patriot missile battery in northern Israel on Thursday after Russia said it reached an agreement to keep Iranian forces 80 kilometers, or about 50 miles, away from the Syrian-Israeli frontier.

Lieberman said that Israel had “no cause to intervene or operate in Syrian territory” if Damascus respects the 1974 disengagement agreement, and as long as Syria doesn’t become a staging ground for Iranian forces to attack Israel or transfer arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Israeli military says it targeted and killed seven “armed terror operatives” who had crossed into Israeli territory in the southern Golan Heights.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said on Thursday that Israel tracked the armed persons approaching the border on Wednesday night and a military aircraft struck as they attempted to cross a security fence on the Israeli size of the frontier.

A subsequent search of the area yielded several assault rifles and explosives. He said a preliminary assessment was that the infiltrators were Islamic State militants.

The military troops were on “high alert and readiness” following the airstrike in the southern Golan Heights.

The army’s announcement came shortly after Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman toured a Patriot missile defense battery in northern Israel during a military preparedness drill.

Russia’s Defense Ministry says United Nations peacekeepers have returned to patrol the frontier between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights for first time in years.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian General Staff says the U.N. peacekeepers, aided by Russian forces, conducted their first patrolling mission in the area on Thursday.

Rudskoy talked to reporters at a press conference in Moscow.

The peacekeeping mission was halted in 2014 amid the violence in Syrian’s civil war.