The US "is effectively siding with a branch of al-Qaeda" in Syria, the diplomat said. "We can only hope that it is a temporary aberration and they will soon return to their senses."
Ford was referring to al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's offshoot in Syria. The United Nations, as well as Russia and the US consider this group to be a terrorist organization. Yet Washington asked Moscow to refrain from launching airstrikes on al-Nusra Front if those rebels, whom the US considers to be moderate, are in the same area.
The diplomat maintained that this request is "not reasonable at all" and even "grotesque." However, it should not sound surprising if Washington's "obsession with getting rid of Assad and the secular government in Syria" is taken into account.
Russia has long lobbied for Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam to be put on the UN's List of designated terrorist groups. This initiative was blocked by the US, although these groups have occasionally carried out joint attacks against civilians.
In addition, Moscow has asked the US to convince the groups Washington supports to move away from areas where al-Nusra Front militants are active. Ford described Russia's efforts as a "very reasonable demand," yet it has not been met yet.