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Russian lawmaker: Liberation of Palmyra may become turning point in fight against IS

March 28, 2016, 17:44 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to Konstantin Kosachev, the next strategic goal for Syrian government forces will probably be Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS in Syria

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Liberation of Palmyra may become some sort of the Battle of Stalingrad for the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization, chairman of Russian Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

The next strategic goal for Syrian government forces will probably be Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS in Syria, he added. "Everyone understands that Palmyra may become Stalingrad for IS. The next serious goal is clearly seen on the horizon - Raqqa," Kosachev wrote. Liberation of Palmyra is "the first considerable and resounding IS defeat brought precisely by Syrian official authorities, though with the support of Russia," he noted.

Kosachev said that liberation of Palmyra by Syrian government forces gives a powerful symbolic impetus to the world. "Even fierce opponents of (Syrian president Bashar) Assad admit that this is precisely liberation, not seizure or conquering," the lawmaker said.

He went on by saying that the successes of official Damascus are an obvious success of all anti-terrorist forces. "Just recently, it was not so obvious, considering the dual task of the Western coalition - to fight against IS and remove Assad (and it is far from obvious what is of top priority)," Kosachev explained.

The lawmaker said that liberation of Palmyra is a "convincing response to everone who was skeptical about Russia’s fulfilled tasks in Syria, which served as a basis for withdrawing forces." "No one ‘left’ anyone. No one got ‘stuck’ anywhere. The support turned out to be timely, effective and allowed to ensure that the process has its own dynamic," Kosachev said.

He said that "a lot will be decided now on diplomatic tracks, at talks in Geneva." "This round now looks differently after the success of Syrian forces. Russia did not withdraw its forces. On the contrary, it is actively working with all partners without exception. I am confident that success will follow there as well," he concluded.

The Syrian army said on Sunday that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, with support from the Russian air group. Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province, was seized by gunmen of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) in early summer 2015.

The Kremlin press service released a statement on March 14 that the Russian and Syrian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, agreed to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian aviation task force from Syria because the Russian Aerospace Forces had fulfilled the fundamental tasks which had been assigned to them. Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015.

Russia left an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops’ withdrawal as of March 15. Last week Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said that Russian forces will continue delivering airstrikes at terrorists in Syria.

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