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Russia expects close anti-terror cooperation with US in Syria

February 13, 12:40 updated at: February 13, 14:01 UTC+3

The Russian top diplomat says voice of armed opposition should be heard at the Astana meeting on Syria

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© Timur Abdullayev/News Team/TASS

MOSCOW, February 13. /TASS/. Moscow expects to establish closer interaction with Washington in the struggle against terrorism in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.

"It is precisely from the anti-terror position that we expect to establish close interaction on Syria - much more effective with the administration of [US President] Donald Trump, considering his absolutely definite approaches to terrorism as an absolute evil," Russia’s top diplomat said.

"This criterion and core point unites all of us," Lavrov said.

"We believe it is necessary to continue using the platform for monitoring the implementation by the sides of their commitments on the non-use of force and for promoting political reforms," he said.

"We consider that the participation of representatives of the armed opposition in the political process is of principal importance. Their voice should be heard during this dialogue," Lavrov stressed.

"The processes that are unfolding in Syria involve many participants: the Syrian parties [both the government and numerous opposition groups], Russia’s air force, Hezbollah which is supported by Iran, the U.S.-led coalition," he said.

"Naturally, when so many participants, although sharing a common goal of rebuffing terrorism, are present on the battlefield, their actions need thorough coordination," Lavrov noted. "This is what we are doing. Naturally, we bear in mind that such coordination must take due account of the Syrian government and its army as all the foreign players I have mentioned above confirm publicly their respect to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, which fact is committed to paper in all United Nations Security Council resolutions on the Syrian crisis."

The Russian top diplomat stressed that Moscow position is that "in practical terms those who are directly involved in the processes on the ground must coordinate their actions." "It is applicable to the operation in al-Bab, to further developments in Manbij and Raqqa, and so forth," Lavrov added.

The top diplomat said Syria’s government and armed opposition, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and a US representative have been invited for the Astana meeting on February 15-16.

"The meeting is planned in the same format, in which the first meeting was held," Lavrov said. "Namely, three guarantor-countries, representatives of the Syrian government and armed opposition groups. Staffan de Mistura was also invited, and US colleagues were invited as observers."

Among these groups are those who signed the December 29 ceasefire deal with Damascus and also an agreement on joint fight against the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups as well as affiliated terrorist groups, he said.

"Staffan de Mistura was also invited taking into consideration his role as a mediator and our US colleagues, who had been represented in Astana at the level of ambassador, were invited as observers," Lavrov said.

Now preparations for the meeting are about to be completed and the lists of delegations and other moments related to organizing the event are being detailed, Lavrov said.

Russia’s top diplomat said between these two rounds the Kazakh capital hosted a meeting attended only by the guarantor-countries. "This was needed to reach a final agreement on all details of mechanism to control the ceasefire agreement," he said. "The creation of this mechanism was actively welcomed abroad, also in the framework of the UN with which we closely cooperate."

"We believe it is necessary to continue using the Astana platform both for monitoring the implementation by the sides of their commitments on the non-use of force and for advancing and encouraging political reforms," Lavrov stressed.

"We consider that the participation of representatives of the armed opposition in the political process is of principal importance. Their voice should be heard during this dialogue," Lavrov said.

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