Russia is stepping up its military support for the Syrian government to prevent the "imminent" collapse of the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, the EU's foreign policy chief told Al Jazeera. Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy told the news organisation that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told her that Russia was increasing it military support to Syria to prevent the collapse of the Syrian state.
"His fear is of a complete collapse of the state structures in Syria," Mogherini said. "This could be one of the reasons Russia is talking in this way, but it could also be willingness to show that Russia is an important, substantial player."
In recent weeks Russia has deployed troops, fighter jets and bombers to Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin's administration is also providing Syria's military with weapons and equipment.
Talks with Iran
On Saturday, 26 September, Mogherini met Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York to discuss means of resolving the Syria conflict, which has claimed more than 240,000 lives, and sparked the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Iran is Assad's key international backer alongside Russia. However, the state – a pariah to the West – has not been included in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. "They expressed their readiness to cooperate within UN-led efforts and exchanged views on how to contribute to that end," said the EU in a statement.
On Monday, US President Barack Obama will meet Putin for talks in New York. It will be the first time the two have met since the Ukraine crisis, and they will hope to agree a common framework for a resolution to the Syrian conflict ahead of talks between the five members of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on Tuesday.
The US has insisted that Assad must go as part of any solution to the Syrian conflict. But in recent weeks there has been a shift in the West's stance, with UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond saying that Assad could remain in power as part of a transitional government.