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Senior Russian lawmaker links Russian-US coalition in Syria with sanctions softening

September 25, 2015, 20:53 UTC+3
Alexey Pushkov however spoke against forwarding softening of anti-Russian sanctions as a condition
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©  AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

MOSCOW, September 25. /TASS/. A senior Russian lawmaker has linked the establishment of a Russian-US coalition in Syria to fight the Islamic State terrorist group with the softening of anti-Russian sanctions.

Alexey Pushkov, the chairman of the international affairs committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, put forward the issue while commenting on an upcoming meeting at the UN General Assembly between Russian and US presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama.

"If the two presidents meet, the talk is about resumption of political dialogue; how long it will last, it’s a different matter," Pushkov said.

He said the situation cannot be interpreted otherwise and recalled a recent phone conversation between the Russian and US defense ministers.

"If prior to that moment we have seen communication between the two countries reduced to periodical contacts between [the two countries’ top diplomats] Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry, now we see expansion of the contacts," Pushkov said, calling the prospect of resuming political dialogue between the two countries’ leader "a key issue" at the upcoming General Assembly session.

"But taking into account that the absence of dialogue has already led to a deadlock situation for the United States and the coalition it leads in Syria… against this backdrop, I think, resumption of dialogue should help us bring the situation out of the deadlock," he said.

Pushkov said he sees "certain grounds to hope that the dialogue will continue, although up until today, the window of opportunities for Russian-US cooperation in Syria existed but was extremely narrow due to differences regarding the government of [Bashar] Assad, due to acute standoff on Ukraine and due to persisting American sanctions against Russia."

"Naturally, it is hard to speak of full-fledged cooperation when one of the sides uses political and economic sanctions against the other. So, naturally, if we speak of a broader coalition in Syria involving both Russia and the United States, it seems to me the American side should first of all shift from these tough positions, in particular on sanctions against Russia," he said.

At the same time, Pushkov spoke against forwarding it as a condition. "Now we should not speak of conditions, we should speak of the context that will make interaction between Russia and the United States in Syria - if the US is ready to practice it - more fruitful," the lawmaker said.

"The more elements of confrontation between the two states and the more Russia perceives the American policy as one aimed to weaken Russia, the fewer there will be prospects for establishment of an efficient coalition with involvement of the two states," he said.

Syrian conflict

According to UN statistics, fighting between Syrian government troops and militants has killed more than 200,000 people and displaced millions since its start in 2011.

An international peace conference on Syria, dubbed Geneva-2, organized by Russia and the United States and designed to negotiate a solution to the Syrian crisis, held in January and February 2014, brought no particular progress.

Sanctions

For incorporation of Crimea after last year’s coup in Ukraine, Russia came under sanctions on the part of the United States and many European countries. The restrictive measures were soon intensified following Western and Ukrainian claims that Russia allegedly supported militias in self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s southeast and was involved in destabilization of Ukraine.

As countermeasures, Russia imposed on August 6, 2014 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the European Union, the United States and Norway. In late July 2015, Russia extended its food embargo until August 2016 inclusive.

Moscow has constantly said Western sanctions are counterproductive.

The Russian authorities have repeatedly denied accusations of "annexing" Crimea, because Crimea reunified with Russia voluntarily after a referendum, as well as claims that Moscow could in any way be involved in hostilities in Ukraine’s east.

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