While Washington and Moscow agree that ISIS, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra constitute the main terrorist threats in Syria, Russia has pushed back against a similar designation for Lebanese Hezbollah and the Gaza-ruling Hamas, Russian news agency Interfax reported on Tuesday.
“We are not even discussing Hezbollah and Hamas with the Americans,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said.
“Our opinions coincide as regards the main terrorist organizations. These are ISIS, al-Qaeda and Jabhat al-Nusra. These are the main ones, and there is a definite consent about them,” said Gatilov, and according to the report, Russian officials repeatedly deny that Hezbollah and Hamas will be added to that mix.
The comments come as Russia continued its military campaign in Syria, battling terrorist groups while simultaneously helping preserve the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, one of Russia’s closest Mideast allies.
Gatilov’s comments, while suggesting that US officials have raised the issue of blacklisting Hezbollah and Hamas with Russia, underscore common interests by Russia and Hezbollah in Syria — both have been fighting opposition groups in the country threatening to dismount Assad. The remarks also highlight differences between Russian and Israeli security policy vis-a-vis Syria, where Israel says it will use military means to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah.
Israeli officials have said the IDF is coordinating with the Russian military to avoid unnecessary confrontation in Syria. Recently, Israel Air Force pilots were reported to have assassinated Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah organizer with apparent links to Iran. A few weeks ago, Israeli defense officials stressed that Russian air craft entered Israeli air space briefly with no incident.