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Russia prepares first group of Syrian combat engineers to clear country of mines

February 16, 12:36 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Russsia has also transferred the equipment so that they can start mine-clearing, according to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu

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© Russian Defense Ministry Press Office/TASS

MOSCOW, February 16. /TASS/. The Russian Anti-Mine Center has prepared the first group of Syrian combat engineers to clear the Arab nation of mines and has transferred the relevant equipment, Russia’s Defense Minister Army General Sergey Shoigu said on Thursday.

The defense minister said at a meeting with UN Special Representative for Syria Staffan de Mistura that the Russian Anti-Mine Center had carried out large-scale work for clearing civil facilities and infrastructure of mines and was restoring water intake facilities in Damascus together with the Syrian authorities to ensure stable water supply and demine Aleppo.

"You know that there are unique historical and cultural monuments there and actually all of them have been mined. In order to make our scope of work broader and cover the maximum number of territories that need to be demined today, we have established a center for training combat engineers and literally yesterday a ceremony was held to graduate the first group of Syrian combat engineers and transfer equipment so that they can start mine-clearing," Shoigu said.

Syria’s map indicating areas controlled by terrorists, opposition

Russia expects a Syrian map indicating which areas are controlled by terrorist and which are under the opposition’s control, to be approved soon, according to Shoigu.

"We hope that today decisions will be made to compile and approve a single map of Syria that will be based on the data provided to us by the Syrian government and the opposition. The map will indicate the positions of the moderate opposition units and the areas controlled by those not joining the ceasefire," Shoigu said.

According to the Russian defense minister, while drawing the map, it is particularly important to indicate the locations of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (both terror groups outlawed in Russia).

"It is particularly important to indicate the areas where terrorists are - ISIL (the former name of the Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusra, whom we will continue to fight in cooperation with the moderate opposition and our allies, Turkey and Iran," Shoigu added.

Syria’s draft constitution

Shoigu said that Syria’s draft constitution should be broadly discussed by all levels of society.

"We understand very well what was in the beginning. In our opinion, it would be not bad to start with discussing the draft constitution. The draft constitution itself has no exact framework, it is a matter for dialogue and discussion. The draft constitution is something that needs discussion with all levels of society," Shoigu said.

The draft document should be discussed with the opposition, authorities and those who are in Syria and abroad, he said.

"Of course, an important factor is the procedure of adopting this constitution, but in any case it should get started with something. And here we have great expectations for Geneva and we are sure that we will be able to make next steps forward in the political process," Shoigu stressed.

Earlier in the day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed that the Geneva talks on Syria will resume on February 23.The latest round of Geneva talks was held on April 13-27, 2016 and brought no result. De Mistura planned to resume discussions last May but the date of the meeting had been postponed many times.

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