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Syrian army must take neutral stance when country’s future is determined — opposition

January 13, 2017, 13:04 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Former Syrian armed forces general stresses the political process is very important

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© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

MOSCOW, January 13. /TASS/. Syria’s army should assume a neutral stance when the country’s future is determined during the transition period, representative of the Syrian armed opposition, former Syrian armed forces General Mustafa Al-Sheikh told a news conference on Friday.

"The mediators between us (the government and opposition - TASS) have been working for seven months now, their task is to convey general information about what is happening," he said. "We, the military, are nowhere near politics. However, we do realize that the political process is very important. We need to use the meeting in Astana to reach a settlement."

The retired general noted that he discussed the role of Syria’s armed forces during the transition period at a meeting with Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and North Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on January 10. "They should take a neutral stand and stay out of politics," he noted. "The army’s core task is preserving the borders and the country’s unity. That’s how we see the role of the Syrian army."

General Mustafa Sheikh said he does not consider Russia as an invader and friendly ties with Russia will be maintained also if the current regime leaves.

"Russia is not an invader or an occupant country, I believe in Russia," Sheikh said. "Sometimes Russia carries out bombings, but they are aimed against certain groups. Russia is not a colonial state, our relations will be maintained, the regime will leave and our friendship will remain."

"Let the Russian forces enter Syria, any corner, and we are ready to receive them if they come to establish peace," the opposition member said. "We want freedom and a secular state, nothing else. If the army comes to set these values then we only welcome this," he said.

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