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Russia calls for refraining from any steps hampering Syrian settlement, says Kremlin aide

The high-ranking official recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Sochi on October 22

MOSCOW, October 21. /TASS/. Russia calls for refraining from actions that may impair Syrian settlement now that the Syrian Constitutional Committee is about to begin its work, Russian presidential aide, Yuri Ushakov said on Monday.

"What is most important and we have stressed it more than once is that we must take no actions and no steps that may harm the settlement efforts in Syria, the political process there," he said. "It is especially important now, days ahead of the first meeting of the Constitutional Committee."

The presidential aide recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Sochi on October 22 to continue to discuss the situation in northern Syria amidst Turkey’s military operation in that area. "The sides are expected to continue discussing the situation in Syria, primarily in the context of Turkey’s military operation across the Euphrates," Ushakov said, noting that the leaders would hold their eighth personal contact since the beginning of the year.

The Kremlin aide noted that the two presidents maintained close contact, both personally and over the phone. Thus, their latest conversation took place on October 15. "During that conversation, they agreed to hold an extraordinary working contact, in the light of the developments in Syria," he explained.

According to Ushakov, the Russian side positively assessed the results of the Turkey-US talks. "But tomorrow [on Tuesday], as we know, these 120 hours or five days are expiring. So, let us wait and see how the situation develops," he said. "Well, this is what our presidents will discuss, as a matter of fact."

Russia’s key goal, in his words, is to achieve lasting stability in Syria. "Naturally, we hope that the interests of all groups of the Syrian people will be reckoned with," he stressed.

When asked whether personal contacts with Syrian President Bashar Assad were planned, Ushakov said that "our representatives keep in touch with the Syrian leader on various matters." Thus, he recalled talks conducted by Russian president’s special envoy for Syrian settlement, Alexander Lavrentyev and by the Russian defense ministry. "Naturally, the situation in the context of the Turkish operation was thoroughly discussed between our and Assad’s representatives," he said, adding that Putin and Erdogan would speak to the press after their talks.

The Kremlin aide did not rule out that the two presidents would have tete-a-tete talks that would be followed by a working lunch, with delegations taking part. The sides, in his words, would tackle issues of bilateral cooperation, which was developing dynamically.

On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. Erdogan’s military campaign kicked off with airstrikes on the positions of the previously US-backed Kurdish units. The Erdogan government claimed that its goal is to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Turkey’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle.

On October 17, the United States, represented by Vice President Mike Pence, reached a deal with Erdogan to pause Operation Peace Spring. Turkey consented to a 120-hour ceasefire so that Kurdish units making up the coalition of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) could leave the areas of the border security zone that Ankara is attempting to create.