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Putin discussed Syrian settlement with Bashar Assad — Kremlin

February 24, 2016, 12:29 UTC+3

Putin and Assad stressed the importance of uncompromising struggle against the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups included in the corresponding list of the UN Security Council

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, February 24. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad have held a telephone conversation to discuss Syrian settlement issues, the Kremlin’s press-service said.

"Various aspects of the Syrian crisis were discussed in the light of the tasks to implement the statement Russia and the United States made as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group on the cessation of hostilities in Syria as of February 27, 2016," the Kremlin said.

"Assad described the proposals contained in the aforesaid statement as an important stride towards a political settlement. In part, he confirmed the Syrian government’s preparedness to promote truce," the statement runs.

Putin and Assad underscored the importance of uncompromising struggle against the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups included in the corresponding list of the UN Security Council, the Kremlin said.

According to the press service, Assad assessed the Russian-US joint statement as an important step towards settlement in Syria and confirmed his readiness to cooperate.

Russia's view on Syrian settlement not identical to that of Damascus

According to the presidential spokesman, Moscow and Damascus keep up constant dialogue and have similar but not necessarily identical views on the Syrian settlement.

"Moscow and Damascus in many ways have similar views on what is happening and on the prospects for a political settlement, but these views are not absolutely identical. Of course, there are differences," the Kremlin spokesman said.

He noted that "Moscow and Damascus maintained constant dialogue," without which it would be impossible to deal with the Syrian settlement.

When asked whether Damascus had been involved in discussions on a ceasefire, Peskov said that "those were closed bilateral Russian-US talks," since Moscow and Washington "could effectively contribute to the settlement."

"Assad is the legitimate president of Syria, the only legitimate president of Syria. Naturally, he may have his own views on various modalities of the Syrian settlement. However, in this case Russia and the United States will use their influence, their potential to bring closer the stances of the countries that have diametrically opposite views on the settlement," Peskov said, adding that "meticulous work was required here."

Priority task is to focus on "plan A" 

According to the official, the priority task is to implement ceasefire agreements in Syria, not to prepare backup plans.

"We currently focus on ‘plan A’ and think that our priority is to discuss and work to implement the plan, the initiative formulated recently by the president of the two countries," Peskov said commenting on Washington’s statement on discussing "plan B" in case implementation of ceasefire agreement in Syria is disrupted.

"We now focus fully on those tasks that were formulated by the president of the two countries. We consider it premature to talk about other plans since the most pressing task now is to implement ceasefire toward those groups that support the initiative of the two presidents," the Kremlin spokesman said answering a question on whether Moscow has a "plan B" of its own.

US State Secretary John Kerry said on Tuesday that Washington and its foreign allies and partners are actively discussing alternative options if ceasefire in Syria is not implemented and political process in the country is not launched. "There is a significant discussion taking place now about a Plan B in the event that we do not succeed at the (negotiating) table," Kerry said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called stopping bloodshed in Syria the main aim of the joint statement adopted by Russia and the United States on Monday.

The presidential spokesman thus replied to a question about whether such joint actions would lead to positive shifts in relations between Russia and the United States.

"Let me remind you once again that the president has said in his message that Russia intends to work closely with Damascus and the legitimate authorities of Syria but expects our American partners to cover their part of the way and use their influence with regard to those groupings, which they support," the Kremlin spokesman said.

"At the same time, the basic goal is to stop the bloodshed in Syria and thus create the conditions for reaching a political settlement. This is the main goal," Peskov said.

Active diplomatic work is currently under way, the Kremlin spokesman said.

"Very intensive contacts are being held because the countries [Russia and the United States] will now use all their influence on particular forces, groupings and sides in this conflict," the spokesman said.

Such interaction between Moscow and Washington has a positive effect on both countries to reach mutual understanding, the Kremlin spokesman said.

"No doubt, this interaction helps to one degree or another to raise the level of mutual trust," Peskov said.

"Despite all the disagreements, the manifestation of certain political or other will sometimes allows Moscow and Washington after all to reach very important results as was the case, for example, with chemical weapons in Syria," the Kremlin spokesman said.

"Let us not forget that the precedents of such productive interaction were already registered in the recent past," Peskov said.

Cessation of hostilities is due to come into force in Syria on February 27, a joint statement of the United States and Russia said on Monday. "The cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016," the joint statement said.

"The United States of America and the Russian Federation, as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) and seeking to achieve a peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis with full respect for the fundamental role of the United Nations, are fully determined to provide their strongest support to end the Syrian conflict and establish conditions for a successful Syrian-led political transition process, facilitated by the UN," it said.

The statement points out that the cessation of hostilities is to be applied to all parties to the Syrian conflict but for Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State) and Jebhat an-Nusra (both are banned in Russia) "or other terrorist organizations designdesignated by the UN Security Council."

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