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Ambassador says Qatar interested in joining Astana talks on Syria

February 20, 7:30 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Doha shares Moscow’s stance that it is only up to the people in Syria to decide on the country’s future president, an ambassador said

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© Timur Abdullaev/NewsTeam/TASS

MOSCOW, February 20. /TASS/. Doha shares Moscow’s stance that it is only up to the people in Syria to decide on the country’s future president, Russian Ambassador to Qatar Nurmakhmad Kholov told TASS on Monday.

"As we have repeatedly told our partners, the issue of Bashar Asad’s presidency in Syria is not in the competence of Russia or Qatar or any other country," Kholov said in an interview with TASS.

"This issue must be decided by the Syrian people only by means of transparent and legitimate elections," the Russian ambassador said.

"Our colleagues in Qatar completely share this stance with us and believe that Moscow’s approaches in this regard are very constructive," Kholov added.

Astana talks

The authorities of Qatar expressed their interest in joining talks in Kazakhstan’s Astana on the inter-Syrian settlement, he went on. 

According to the Russian diplomat, Qatar did not receive an official invitation to join the talks on the inter-Syrian settlement, which were held in the capital of Kazakhstan on January 23-24.

"However, the authorities of Qatar expressed their interest in joining this format, since the country, as one of the key players in the region, exercises major influence on the situation in Syria," Kholov said.

The Russian diplomat said that despite different approaches and disagreements on other issues, both Moscow and Doha pursue the final aim of achieving ceasefire in Syria with the preserved integrity of the country and restoration of all state and municipal authority institutions.

"In political sense, Qatar has a certain influence on the moderate opposition in Syria - participants of the conflict," Kholov said. "For instance, former president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Ahmad Moaz Al-Khatib is currently residing in Doha and he is an ideologist for certain groups of the moderate opposition, including Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham," he said.

"In this regard, we are extensively using political capabilities of the emirate for reaching our common tasks," Kholov added.

Anti-Russia sentiment

The ambassador told TASS that there were no anti-Russian sentiments in Doha despite different approaches of Russia and Qatar on the issue of the Syrian conflict settlement.

"On the whole, there are no anti-Russian sentiments in Doha, despite some disagreements in our approaches on the Syrian issue," Kholov said. "We are enjoying a constructive dialogue with Qatar on this issue and doing everything in clearly explaining our position to our colleagues."

"As for media criticism against Moscow regarding the Syrian issue, I should say that no attention should be paid to ‘ordered analytics’ of certain western political circles, which seeks benefit from the protracted conflict in Syria," the ambassador added.

 Fight against terrorism

Russia is ready to provide all the necessary support for Qatar in the fight against terrorism in the region, he went on. 

The Russian diplomat praised the interaction between Moscow and Doha regarding anti-terrorism initiatives on various international areas, particularly within the frames of the Global Counterterrorism Forum.

"We highly evaluate Qatar’s efforts in the fight against militants from terrorist organizations in the region and are ready to provide our support in this regard," Kholov said.

"In particular, Russia is ready to cooperate with Qatar in the fight against militants of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in Syria," the diplomat said.

"Last year, Russian president’s special envoy on Syrian reconciliation Alexander Lavrentyev paid three visits to Doha, where he held a number of meetings with senior officials of the emirate," Kholov said.

"During the meetings, the sides exchanged opinions as well as information regarding the location of groups from the so-called moderate opposition, which are supported by Qatar, in order to prevent Russia’s air strikes on their positions," the ambassador added.

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