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Putin says glad to see beginning of political process in Syria

He recalled that the idea of the constitutional committee "was conceived in Sochi, at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that brought together various political forces, including the opposition and the government

MOSCOW, October 13. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he hopes Syria’s constitutional committee will begin to work within days.

"We proceed from the premise that internal political contradictions must be and can be resolved by political methods only. That is why we were so adamant. I am glad to see it happening now as part of the political process, as a result of the establishment of the so-called Constitutional Committee," he said in an interview with RT Arabic, Al Arabiya and Sky News Arabia TV channels on Sunday ahead of his visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

He recalled that the idea of the constitutional committee "was conceived in Sochi, at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress that brought together various political forces, including the opposition and the government." "And here Syrians agreed among themselves to set up a constitutional committee that would work on changing the Syrian Constitution or drafting a new one," he noted.

"We have trodden a hard, arduous, and long path to form this committee. Now it has finally been formed, on behalf of the government, on behalf of President Assad, and on behalf of the opposition. I expect that in the coming days, it will take its first steps in Geneva under the auspices of the UN," Putin said.

The Russian leader explained why Moscow insisted on the launch of a political dialogue. "We came to Syria to support the legitimate government, and I would like to emphasise the word ‘legitimate.’ It does not mean that they do not have internal problems; I am ready to talk about it in detail later. It does not mean that the current leadership is not responsible for what is going on there. They are, but it does not mean that we were to allow terrorist organizations to capture Syria and to establish a terrorist pseudo-state there," he said.

"We could not allow militants to move to former Soviet republics. We do not have hard borders or a visa regime with them. We could not allow militants to infiltrate Russia from there. We already had such an experience and we know what this might lead to. We still remember what happened in Russia’s North Caucasus region not that long ago. This is why we made a decision to support the legitimate government," he stressed.

Putin cited the examples of Iraq and Libya, which experienced foreign interference. "In the case of Iraq, the United States circumvented the United Nations Security Council. The US had no mandate to use force against Iraq," he recalled. "Russia, France and Germany did not support the US plans regarding Iraq. What is more, we warned about the potential adverse implications, and that is exactly what happened."

"The initial euphoria of military victories soon gave way to despondency and pessimism about the consequences of the victory. Because all Iraqi government institutions were destroyed, but no new institutions were established, at least in the beginning. On the contrary, the radical forces got a boost, and terrorists groups became stronger," Putin noted. "Many former officers of [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein’s army and security service agents resurfaced and joined the ranks of what later evolved into ISIS (Islamic State, a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia - TASS). So, those who led and supported this campaign had not considered the ramifications."

"We do expect that there will be some positive developments in Iraq, and despite some internal problems, the country will continue to move forward. Although there are still a lot of problems to deal with, we are perfectly aware of that," he went on to say.

"As for Libya, the chaos wrought by the military operations still prevails, but in this case, our Western partners played a trick on us, using the vernacular term (I do not know how this will be translated)," the Russian leader noted. "Russia voted for the corresponding [UN] Security Council resolution. After all, what does this resolution say, if you read it carefully? The resolution prohibited [Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi to use aviation against the rebels. But there was nothing about allowing any air strikes on Libyan territory. But that was what actually happened. So, basically, what happened there was done circumventing the UN Security Council."

"And we are all aware of what happened next. There is still chaos and confusion; a flow of migrants went through Libya to Europe. Gaddafi had always warned about that, he said that he stopped African migrants from going to Europe. As soon as this ‘wall’ was gone, they started pouring into Europe. And now they have what they were warned about. But that is probably not even the main issue. Most importantly, it is destabilising the entire Middle East region," he added.