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Russia’s operation in Syria destroyed plans for military solution to crisis — ambassador

February 09, 2016, 11:14 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Russia's embassy in Syria maintains contact with the whole spectrum of political forces in Syria except for militant groups

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Syrian government troops fire at terrorists' positions near Mahin

Syrian government troops fire at terrorists' positions near Mahin

© Alexander Kots/Komsomolskaya Pravda via AP

MOSCOW, February 9. /TASS/. The Russian air task force’s operation in Syria has destroyed plans for the military solution to the crisis in that country, Russia’s Ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak told TASS on Tuesday.

"The start of the Russian air task force’s operation in Syria has prompted radical changes in the balance of forces both ‘in the field’ and in the political sphere," the Russian diplomat said.

"All the sides involved in the Syrian crisis became aware that there would be no quick fall of the regime of Bashar Assad. Many of those who earlier counted on the military solution have realized that now this will hardly happen," the ambassador said.

As a result, pre-requisites have emerged for some consensus among the main foreign players to elaborate a political solution to the Syrian crisis, which has helped launch the Vienna negotiating process in the format of the International Syria Support Group, the diplomat said.

"Late in December, UN Security Council Resolution 2254 was adopted. This resolution actually approved a roadmap for political settlement in that country and laid the international and legal basis for implementing the Vienna accords," the ambassador noted.

"Therefore, the dynamics of the development of the entire military and political situation in the Syrian Arab Republic has generally changed for the better," he added.

Most Syrians should back deal between authorities, opposition

The diplmat also said the settlement in Syria is closely associated with modernizing the political system, but the agreement should be supported by the majority of the country’s citizens.

"People feel that they are more tired of the long-lasting crisis. First, they want the end of violence and the resumption of normal life," Kinshchak said. "I see no sense in discussions on what is now more important and pressing - to stop the kith-on-kin war or to carry out deep political reforms."

"These are interrelated tasks that need to be solved in parallel," the ambassador stressed.

To ensure the long-term settlement, Syrians need to agree on the future of their country where the five-year civil war has claimed more than 250,000 lives, he said.

"This means that changes are needed and inevitable," the diplomat said, adding that an agreement on this is to be hammered out at the intra-Syrian talks.

"Of course, the agreement reached by the representatives of authorities and opposition with the foreign assistance should be supported by the majority of the country’s citizens," he said.

The path towards normalizing the situation in Syria is envisaged by the road map reached at the meetings of the International Syria Support Group, the diplomat said.

"It stipulates that at the free democratic elections a real balance between the main Syrian political forces will be found and therefore the extent of their participation in the future power structures," he said.

"I believe this should become an important precondition for the long-term settlement of the current crisis. This settlement is naturally linked to the need of adequately modernizing the political system in the country," Kinshchak said.

This scenario will meet Russia’s interests in the best way as "it will soon open for us the new possibilities for developing diversified mutually beneficial cooperation with Syrian partners in the post-conflict period," the ambassador said.

Moscow, Damascus share views on defining terrorist groups in Syria

The diplomat stressed that Russia and Syria have similar approaches on what groups in Syria can be considered terrorists.

"In many ways, our views coincide, including on criteria of defining those armed groups that are qualified as terrorists on solid grounds," Kinshchak said. "We have close assessments with Syrians on the key and most odious armed groups," he added.

The ambassador said this issue is "much more difficult that it may seem at first glance."

For example, the Jaish al-Fatah group includes Jabhat al-Nusra and other units that international partners seek to define as "moderate" opposition. However, illegal armed groups consisting of local citizens cooperate with them and listing all of them as terrorists "would be wrong," he said.

Russia exchanges information on the activity of various groups with the Syrian government and receives specific data on the crimes committed by them against civilians, Kinshchak said.

"The moment of truth here can be the stage of general ceasefire," he said.

"Then those groups that refuse to stop violence and lay down arms or turn them against the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and others will themselves choose the wrong side in the armed conflict with terrorist groups in Syria and will be considered as legitimate aims."

Russian embassy in Syria keeps in touch with whole range of opposition groups

According to the diplomat, Russia's embassy in Syria maintains contact with the whole spectrum of political forces in Syria except for militant groups.

"We keep in touch with all political parties and associations in Syria, both those registered under the local legislation and with the ‘non-systemic opposition’," he said. "In fact we have no contacts with illegal armed groups. All those who seek political goals and work for their achievement by political methods are our partners."

Among the representatives of the opposition with which the Russian embassy has contacts Kinshchak mentioned the National Coordination committee for Democratic Change. "Its representatives jointed the opposition’s delegation formed by the Riyadh Supreme Commission for Negotiation," he recalled. "Among those on the list of our contacts are also those political forces which are trying to form an alternative opposition delegation, the so-called Lausanne Group, in order to conduct a dialogue in Geneva with the Syrian government on its own. We actively work with the so-called patriotic opposition, whose leaders held their congress in Damascus last December."

Kinshchak said that in contacts with the opposition Russian diplomats were asking its members to maintain a constructive dialogue with the authorities, proceeding from the assumption a political solution can have no alternatives and should be a product of the Syrians themselves.

"The recent attempt to start intra-Syrian talks in Geneva has proved not very productive," he said. "It happened so not through the fault of our Syrian partners. We will continue tight work with all Syrian parties for the sake of ensuring the success of another round of talks under the UN auspices."

In their contacts with members of different political forces the diplomats proceed from the understanding that consolidation of efforts in the struggle with terrorism is one of the most important tasks.

"Without resolving this issue it will be impossible to ensure progress regarding other components of the political settlement in the country," Kinshchak said.

Some 10,000 Russian citizens remain in war-torn Syria 

An estimated 10,000 Russian citizens currently stay in Syria affected by the five-year conflict.

"According to our assessment, this is 10,000 people, including those Syrians from mixed families who have Russian passports," Kinshchak said, adding that it is difficult to give the exact figures as many people prefer not to be registered at the consulate.

The ambassador also said now there is no talk of an emergency special operation to evacuate the Russians from Syria.

"The Russians, including those living in the area of combat operations, have a possibility to use the chance, namely the arrival of another aircraft with humanitarian aid to Latakia," he said.

On the way back to Russia, the plane evacuates all the people in need, including the citizens of former Soviet states with their Syrian relatives. "As far as we know, the counterparts from the Emergencies Ministry plan to continue the practice of carrying out such humanitarian flights," the diplomat added.

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