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Juncker: Too early to say if end of Russian operation in Syria to reduce refugees numbers

March 17, 2016, 15:38 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

EC President welcomes the decision to withdraw forces from Syria, saying it could reduce number of refugees willing to come to Europe, however it is too early to predict this

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BRUSSELS, March 17. /TASS/. It is too early to say whether the end of Russia’s military operation in Syria will lead to reduced numbers of refugees to the European Union (EU), European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Thursday.

"I don’t have final observation to present on this respect. I welcome the decision of Russian leadership to withdraw forces from Syria. It could easily be that this will reduce number of refugees willing to come to Europe, but it is too early to say," Juncker said answering a TASS question ahead of the EU summit.

The Kremlin press service released a statement on March 14 that the Russian and Syrian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, agreed to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian aviation task force from Syria because the Russian Aerospace Forces had fulfilled the fundamental tasks which had been assigned to them. Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015.

Russia will leave an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops’ withdrawal as of March 15. Earlier today Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said that Russian forces will continue delivering airstrikes as terrorists in Syria.

The ceasefire between government forces and armed opposition took effect in Syria at 00:00 Damascus Time on February 27. An hour before the agreement entered into force, UN Security Council adopted a resolution in support of cessation of hostilities in Syria. The inter-Syrian talks resumed in Geneva on March 9.

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