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Kremlin sees its main task in Syria in promoting peace process

Vladimir Putin's spokesman stressed that Russia’s decision to remove part of its military contingent from Syria does not mean that Moscow does not like Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stance

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. The Kremlin sees its main task in Syria to do its utmost to promote a peace settlement process in Syria, presidential press-secretary Dmitry Peskov has said.

"The main task now is to take every measure to promote peace settlement and talks that have begun in Geneva," he said.

"The accomplishment of the tasks set to the Russian air group in Syria allowed for considerably expanding the territory regained from the terrorists in Syria, provide support for the patriotic forces in the Syria in the fight against terrorism and bring about a qualitative change of the situation," Peskov recalled. "Once the mission has been accomplished, it is the pullout of the contingent that creates the necessary pre-requisites for developing the positive negotiating process within the framework of intra-Syrian settlement," Peskov believes.

"Russia and US carry out functions of controlling ceasefire observation on the basis of the information reported by the groups that joined (the ceasefire regime)," Peskov said. "This information is carefully put on the map, and then the military exchange reports with our colleagues," he added.

"This process is rather laborious, it requires attention. This is a rather complicated negotiations process," the spokesman noted.

He refrained from comments as to whether a resumption of the Russian air operation in Syria might be possible.

"Those would be hypothetical speculations. I would not like to indulge in them now," he said.

Pullout from Syria does not mean Moscow dislikes Assad’s stance

Peskov stressed that Russia’s decision to remove part of its military contingent from Syria does not mean that Moscow does not like Syrian President Bashar Assad’s stance.

The official was asked if it would be correct to say that the decision to curtail Russian positions in Syria was evidence of the Kremlin’s discontent over Assad’s harsh stance at the negotiations over a peace settlement of the political crisis.

"It would be wrong to say so," Peskov said to dismiss speculations Russia might be trying to put pressure on Assad in the peace settlement process.

When asked whether President Vladimir Putin’s decision taken on Monday means that the Russian aircraft will no longer deliver airstrikes on militant positions in Syria, Peskov redirected this question to the Russian Defense Ministry. "Again, this question should be addressed to the Defense Ministry. Now the number of sorties has actually dropped by two-thirds. The presence of such contingent is just not required," he said.

According to the press secretary, the decision to withdraw forces from Syria hadn't been discussed with foreign colleagues.

"This is the decision of the Russian president and commander-in-chief based on data on the results of work of Russian contingent in Syria," Peskov said. Putin "took into account the results and came to a conclusion that major tasks were accomplished in general," he added.

"This was not an issue of talks [with foreign colleagues], this was the decision of the president of Russia," Peskov stressed.

The spokesman noted that personnel will remain at two Russian military facilities in Syria. "Let’s not forget that two facilities - Hmeimim and Tartus - will remain, and therefore they cannot exist without personnel."

President Putin ordered on Monday to start withdrawing the main part of Russia’s forces from Syria starting March 15. He said the tasks assigned to the military were generally fulfilled.