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Russia’s defense minister invites foreign partners to assist Palmyra demining operation

March 31, 2016, 13:24 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Sergey Shoigu stressed that almost everyone has left the city that was previously home to more than 100,000 citizens

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 31. /TASS/. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has called on foreign colleagues and partners to take part in mine clearance operations in the ancient city of Palmyra recently liberated by the Syrian army.

"Rather great work is underway on demining monuments of culture in Palmyra," Shoigu said at the meeting with First Deputy Serbian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic on Thursday.

"We turn to our colleagues and our partners with a proposal on a joint operation that first of all envisages mine clearing at the monuments’ territory and demining the city itself," the minister said.

Shoigu stressed that almost everyone has left the city that was previously home to more than 100,000 citizens. "Until it is demined, it is difficult to speak about the return of citizens and refugees," he said. These people have a great wish to come back home and "we have all the possibilities to provide them with this support by demining and other humanitarian operations."

He reminded that Russia and Serbia have a rather huge experience in mine clearing missions. "Some time ago, we began the work on demining the territory of Serbia and we continue it now," Shoigu said.

On Tuesday, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov announced the same proposal. Later a military and diplomatic source told TASS that the Russian defense ministry plans to call on countries of the US-led coalition to take part in demining Palmyra.

The Syrian army said on Sunday that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, with support from the Russian air group and special forces, including Russian military advisers.

Palmyra, located in Syria’s Homs province some 210 kilometers from Damascus, was seized by the Islamic State terrorist group in May last year. Syria’s authorities said back then that Palmyra with its monumental ruins of a great city, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, could share the fate of Iraq’s ancient cities of Assur, Nimrud and Hatra that were destroyed by gunmen.

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