MOSCOW, November 13. /TASS/. Patriarch of the See of Antioch and all the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church Mor Ignatius Aphrem II supports Russia’s military operation in Syria against the Islamic State terrorist group outlawed in Russia, Chairman of the State Duma committee for foreign affairs Aleksey Pushkov told TASS on Friday following his talks with the patriarch.
"Primarily, he expressed his gratitude to Russia for its military operation in Syria and underlined that Russia took action at the moment when the Syrian army found itself in a rather difficult situation," Pushkov said noting that in the patriarch’s opinion, Russia’s involvement in military activities against Islamic State had turned the tide.
"He [the patriarch] pins exceptionally big hopes on the Russian military operation and Russian diplomacy as well and, he said, this military operation and Russia’s efforts in Syria are definitely aimed at reaching a political settlement," he said.
"Also, His Holiness expressed his appreciation for Russian lawmakers’ stance who on all the international floors, first of all, within the framework of the Council of Europe, have been pushing resolutions in support of Christians in the Middle East, in particular in Syria," Pushkov said.
"It is a matter of concern as the Christians are the most vulnerable confession in that region due to understandable reasons: the Sunni states support the Sunnis and the Shiites can turn to the Shiite states," the Russian MP said. "But the Christians can be supported only by Europe’s Christian part."
The Russian military started an operation against militants of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organisations (outlawed in Russia) in Syria on September 30 at the request of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Earlier in the same day, the Federation Council upper house approved Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request for the use of the country’s armed forces in Syria.
The Russian aviation grouping comprises more than 50 aircraft and helicopters, including the Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-24M bombers, Su-25 attack aircraft, Su-30SM fighters and Mil Mi-8 and Mi-24 helicopters.
Also, overnight to October 7, the Caspian Flotilla ships delivered a massive strike on the IS objectives in Syria, using Kalibr NK shipborne cruise missiles.
The Russian authorities have said on many occasions that Russia’s military forces would not take part in any ground operation in Syria.