Britain's foreign intelligence chief says that Russia and the Syrian government are blocking efforts to end the war in Syria and defeat the extremist group Islamic State (IS) by treating all opponents of President Bashar al-Assad as terrorists.
"Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heart-breaking," Secret Intelligence Service head Alex Younger said on December 8. "We cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that land unless the civil war is brought to an end."
In his first major public speech in two years in the job, Younger suggested that Russia's involvement in Syria, where is has backed Assad's government throughout the more than five-year civil war, was undermining efforts to eliminate that threat.
"As I speak, the highly organized external-attack-planning structures within [IS], even as they face military threat, are plotting ways to project violence against the U.K. and our allies without ever having to leave Syria," he said at the MI6 headquarters in London.
Western governments say a campaign of air strikes that Russia launched in September 2015 has mainly targeted rebels rather than IS militants.
Younger said that 12 terror plots had been foiled since June 2013 in the United Kingdom, which he said was facing an unprecedented threat from terrorism.