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Sergei Ivanov: Syria opposition to lose interest in talks in case of strike

September 21, 2013, 16:00 UTC+3

The Kremlin official also expressed concern over the concentration of opposition forces near Damascus

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STOCHKOLM, September 21 (Itar-Tass) - In case of a strike on Syria from outside, the opposition will completely lose interest in further talks with Damascus, Russian Presidential Administration Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov told the meeting of the tenth conference of the London International Strategic Studies Institute on Saturday.

In case of foreign armed interference, the opposition that already objects to the initiative to hold a peace conference will completely lose interest in talks, expecting the United States, as in Libya, to bomb out the regime and thus lay an easy way for rebels to win, Ivanov said.

In accordance with the Russian-American initiative of May 7, 2013, Russia has gone its part of the way, receiving Damascus's consent to send its delegation to the Geneva conference. The American partners have failed to achieve the same result from the opposition. And the statements that cruise missile strikes will promote the peace process are not serious and irresponsible, Ivanov stressed.

The official called for thorough and objective investigation into all the cases of use of chemical weapons in Syria.

It is the United Nations Security Council’s prerogative to determine what party is guilty of the use of weapons of mass destruction. Much thorough work must be done to solve the problem. Russia believes in this case it is a large-scale provocation, and it will be much more difficult to establish the truth with proof. United Nations experts should return to Syria as soon as possible and continue their work to investigate cases of use of chemical weapons, including what happened in Khan al-Assal on March 19, Ivanov noted.

The Kremlin official also expressed concern over the concentration of opposition forces near Damascus. It needs no explanation to understand how many casualties, first of all among the civilian population, it may lead to. For example, the rebels have already attacked the town of Maaloula, where an ancient Christian monastery, one of the oldest, is located. People there still speak the language of Jesus -- Aramaic. Armed rebels kept from attacking it before, he noted.

The most combative force of the opposition is Jabhat al-Nusra affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In its ranks are only Islamic radicals from all over the world. These are the same people who fought against Americans and NATO in Iraq and Afghanistan, against Russians in Chechnya and against Frenchmen in Mali. "Who can fight extremists in one country and arm them in another?" the official asks with indignation.

Speaking about Russia's steps, Ivanov noted that the initiative for international control over the Syrian weapons of mass destruction with further elimination of the weapons was welcomed by most countries. "Only the Syrian opposition and, if I am not mistaken, Saudi Arabia had negative attitude to it," he said.

One should talk not about confrontation around the Syrian problem, but about efforts of partners and serious joint work, the Kremlin official said.

Of course, a peaceful diplomatic approach to settle conflicts is not easy, but there is no real alternative to it, he concluded.

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