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Russia ready to let Jabhat al-Nusra leave Aleppo for saving the city — Lavrov

October 07, 16:14 UTC+3
According to UN estimates, there are some 6,000-8,000 militants in Aleppo
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© EPA/SANA

MOSCOW, October 7. /TASS/. Russia will be prepared to support the proposal made by the UN secretary-general’s special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, for the withdrawal of Jabhat al-Nusra (terrorist organization outlawed in Russia - TASS) from Aleppo for the sake of saving the city, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Chanel One’s weekly Sunday news roundup Voskresnoye Vremya in an interview.

"According to UN estimates, there are some 6,000-8,000 militants there. About half of them - de Mistura said so himself at the UN Security Council meeting - are Jabhat al-Nusra members. I’ve heard only his statement concerning al-Nusra. For God’s sake, if al-Nusra with all of its armaments leaves for Idlib, where its main forces are based, for the sake of saving Aleppo we would be prepared to support this approach and will be ready to ask the Syrian government to agree to this."

However, Lavrov said, "the question arises about the other half of the militants who merged with al-Nusa over the past weeks and days. What will happen to it? If it wishes to leave and take its weapons, it is welcome to do so. No questions. But if it wishes to stay in the city, then a separate agreement is to be negotiated how to handle this problem."

"Those who will not leave with al-Nusra, must clearly distance themselves from it, to sign such an official obligation on paper," Lavrov said. "Possibly, the government agencies, the police and this part of the armed opposition might agree to form some joint law enforcement bodies to maintain normal life there to let civilians feel secure."

Militants who have separated from Jabhat al-Nusra will be able to form law enforcement forces in Aleppo along with the police, according to Lavrov. 

"Those who are not leaving with al-Nusra must clearly dissociate themselves from it, to commit this liability to paper, officially," Lavrov said. "Maybe then, government structures, police and these armed oppositionists will be able to form some joint law enforcement bodies to maintain normal life to make people feel secure."

Moscow is also ready to work with Damascus on municipal bodies in Eastern Aleppo.

"United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura also said that a part of his initiative is to preserve those municipal bodies that are now governing Eastern Aleppo," Lavrov said. "Obviously, these bodies are not in sympathy with the government. We think this option can be looked at too. We will be ready to work with the [Syrian] government on that."

The minister noted that de Mistura's proposal required clear and unequivocal coordination before it can be used as basis for the UN Security Council’s resolution on settling the situation in Aleppo.

"The devil is in the detail. Staffan de Mistura’s thought moves in the right direction, but a number of specific questions arise instantly and they require extremely clear and unequivocal coordination," Lavrov said. "If it works (and we are prepared to do that fast), then I believe that it may become the backbone of the UN Security Council’s resolution as to what is to be done to the situation in Aleppo.

"As for the humanitarian aid deliveries, there is no other way but to implement the agreements we reached with the US, that means unblocking Castello road," the minister said. "I hope our French partners will take these amendments into account, otherwise the UN Security Council will not be able to contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis at the current stage."

Withdrawal of militants from Damascus’ suburb

According to Lavrov, one more Damascus’ suburb is a subject of talks on withdrawal of militants from there.

"We already have an example of two settlements (the militants have left - TASS]. In one of them, the agreement between the Syrian government and militants was implemented. Now, one more Damascus’ suburbs is subject of talks on that matter," he said.

Russia ready to work on resolution on Syria

The diplomat stressed that Moscow is ready to work in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution on Syria, but Moscow’s approach is not "just to adopt something."

"We have recently had talks with our French colleagues, who are drafting a UN Security Council resolution, believing that if the Russian-American efforts have not yielded results, it is necessary to urgently do something," Lavrov said.

"We are ready to work in the UN Security Council, we told them that, but our approach is not ‘just to adopt something’," he said.

"We should in no way lose the principles, mechanisms that were agreed with the Americans, approved by all members of the International Syria Support Group and members of the international community in broader terms," Lavrov warned.

"When a three-day truce in Aleppo without separation of the opposition from terrorists was being discussed, there were a lot of optimistic radio talks that ‘well, the Americans are about to talk the Russians into declaring ceasefire and when it is done we will receive weapons and munitions and everything will be all right," he said. "That is why until this problem of separation is not solved, any resolutions of the United Nations Security Council will be senseless. Moreover, it is necessary to put it clearly - all who are blocking intra-Syrian dialogue must stop doing it immediately. This is how we spoke with the French."

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