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ASTANA, June 7. /TASS/. The West is unable to overcome differences in order to form a common anti-terrorist front, Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday.
"The focus should be on combating international terrorism, which in a short period of time has morphed into the greatest threat to global security," he said addressing a meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states, held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana. "The situation has been deteriorating because of numerous regional conflicts all over the world and the West’s inability to overcome differences and ensure that a common anti-terrorist front is formed," Shoigu added.
According to the Russian defense minister, Syria remains the frontline in the war against international terrorism.
"This is where the main forces of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) are active, this is the command center that operates militant gangs," he pointed out. "Since 2015, Russia has been fighting against radical Islamist groups, based on the request of Syria’s legitimate government, in order to prevent them from advancing into the SCO member states," he said.
Shoigu also said that Russia’s Aerospace Force had succeeded "in significantly damaging the militants’ capabilities."
"The Syrian troops supported by the Russian Aerospace Force continue to combat the ISIL (the former name of the Islamic State - TASS) and Jahbat al-Nusra units," Shoigu noted. "Thanks to the activities of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides, the area included in the ceasefire agreement has been expanding. Authorities of more than 1,500 settlements have abandoned the fight against the government forces," Shoigu added.
"The Memorandum on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria, signed by Russia, Turkey and Iran at the May 4 meeting in Astana, heralds a new stage in the evolution of the conflict," he said addressing a meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states, held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana. "The Memorandum is a landmark document as its implementation will actually allow to stop military activities and end the civil war," Shoigu added.
"At the same time, the fight against the ISIL (the former name of the Islamic State terror group, outlawed in Russia - TASS), Jabhat al-Nusra and their affiliated units will be stepped up," the Russian defense minister stressed.
According to him, "practical steps are being taken to fulfill the reached agreements." "One of the priority tasks is to ensure the monitoring of the implementation of the obligations taken over by the parties to the conflict, as well as to create conditions for restoring the destroyed infrastructure and resuming economic activities," Shoigu said. The Russian defense minister also noted that Russia, Iran and Turkey - the guarantors of the ceasefire - had succeeded in building a direct dialogue between the Syrian government and the armed opposition. "I would like to emphasize the fact that the Astana platform has become one of the key elements of the Syria settlement as a wide range of issues is discussed here - from the implementation of the ceasefire and demining activities to arranging direct talks," Shoigu added.
The situation in Afghanistan is far from improving, the minister said.
"The situation there continues to deteriorate," Shoigu said addressing a meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states, held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana. "The US-led international coalition has failed to bring peace and tranquility to the country," he added. The Russian defense minister pointed out that the units of the Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) were active in Afghanistan.
"The activities of the ISIL (the former name of the Islamic State - TASS) are not confined to Syria and Iraq, their units are now also active in Afghanistan, an SCO observer state," Shoigu said. "The rise of ISIL militants in Afghanistan causes particular concern, since their number has reached 3,500, while the terror group’s strategy, aimed at creating a caliphate, poses a threat not only to Afghanistan’s security but also to the security of its neighboring countries," the Russian defense minister said.
Russia is reinforcing its military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with state-of-the-art weapons to stonewall shifting terrorist activity from Afghanistan to Central Asia, he went on.
"Russia’s Defense Ministry is taking measures to obstruct a shift of terrorist activity from Afghanistan to the Central Asian region. To this aim, we are increasing combat readiness of Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, equipping them with modern weapons and military equipment," Shoigu told a meeting of defense ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s member-states in Kazakhstan.
In March this year, anti-terrorist command and staff drills were held in Tajikistan involving the republic’s forces, Shoigu said. "In September, similar exercises involving national military contingents of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member-states are due to be held," he said.
Shoigu also noted that the joint Dushanbe-Anti-Terror 2017 drills were also conducted. "In close proximity to the Tajik-Afghan border the troops trained to carry out fire attacks and destroy armed groups, conduct air intelligence and step up protection of crucial facilities," he said.
The exercise, wrapped up in Tajikistan this weekend, had been coordinated by the CIS Anti-Terrorism Center. Russia was represented by about 2,000 servicemen with more than 300 pieces of military hardware, including 30 planes and helicopters.