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Russia keeps urging West to set up wide coalition against terrorism

Russia insists on political settlement of the situation in Syria, according to a diplomat

SOCHI, October 25. /TASS/. Russia keeps urging the West to set up a wide coalition against terrorism, Russian presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, said at a meeting of the international discussion club Valdai on Tuesday.

"No country in the world is secure against the threat of terrorism," Bogdanov said. "In a situation like this Russia attaches priority to the consolidation of efforts and the creation of a wide global coalition against terrorism."

Bogdanov recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed this message to foreign partners in the United Nations a year ago and that of his call remained relevant.

"We are aware that it is far better to do away with extremists while they are still far away, before they show up on our doorstep," Bogdanov said. "Western partners have to take into account this position of ours. Slowly but surely they are developing the awareness that without Russia the global war against terrorism cannot be won and peace in the Middle East region cannot be restored."

"Moscow remains prepared for cooperation with all countries that are capable of making a contribution to the settlement of the Syrian crisis," he stated.

Global terrorism can’t be defeated without Russia

The diplomat noted Moscow’s Western partners understand that it is impossible to win a global war on terror and bring peace to the Middle East without Russia.

"Extremists have to be crushed at the distant approaches before they move towards our countries. Western partners increasingly have to reckon with our position as they are coming to realize, even if gradually, that a global war on terror can’t be won and peace in the Middle East can’t be restored without Russia," Bogdanov said.

Moscow is ready, as before, to interact with all the countries able to contribute to the settlement of the Syrian crisis, the envoy said.

According to the Russian deputy foreign minister, there are no states in the world today that are insured against terrorist threats. In these conditions, the tasks of consolidating the efforts for creating a global anti-terroir coalition remain a priority for Russia, the envoy said.

Operation in Iraq

The diplomat dwelled upon the Mosul liberation operation, saying that Russia is not going to fall into "humanitarian hysterics" over the U.S.-led international coalition’s participation in the operation.

He reminded of the criticism of Russia’s operation in Syria that occasionally "takes a shape of poorly disguised threats." "On our part, we are not going to fall into humanitarian hysterics over the participation of the Americans and other members of the anti-Islamic State coalition in the ongoing operation to liberate Iraq’s Mosul, despite the fact that there are grounds for humanitarian concerns," he said. "We think that Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (both outlawed in Russia as terrorist organizations) are our common enemies. We are not going to put obstacles for those who are exterminating terrorists."

Touching on the operation in Mosul, Bogdanov noted that terrorists are offering serious resistance. "The liberation of the city with a population of 1.5 million will be a moment of truth," he said, adding however that complete defeat of extremists in Iraq is a far perspective and a proof to that are never-ending terrorist attacks, including in Baghdad and other big cities.

Russia is not planning to evacuate its consulate general in Iraq’s Erbil.

"The situation is Erbil is calm. Let us hope it remains that way," he said.

The ground operation to liberate Mosul from terrorists of Islamic State began on October 17. It involves the Iraqi government troops, Kurdish units and the U.S.-led international anti-terrorist coalition. Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city with a population of 1.3 million, has been controlled by Islamic State for over two years.

Russia has no secret agenda on Syria 

The diplomat stressed Russia has no secret agenda on Syria and it remains to be committed to international agreement. 

"We are strictly committed to the agreements that ere reached both within the International Syria Support Group and within the United Nations Security Council, starting from the Geneva communique," the Russian diplomat said. "We proceed from the legitimacy of the Syrian government and that country - no one has expelled it from the United Nations. That is why we answered a request from the Damascus legitimate government for support in anti-terrorist efforts. This is our role, when we speak about Syria."

"Other countries are asking us if we join anti-terrorist efforts on their territories," Bogdanov noted. "We answer, ‘We have no official requests from you. As soon as we have them, our leaders will scrutinize them.’ This is what our participation in Syria was about, and it continues and is geared toward combating terrorism."

"Russia has no secret agenda, we are committed to the resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council and within our international cooperation," he underscored, adding that participants in Lausanne format are working on Syrian document.

"After the completion of the Lausanne-format talks at the level of foreign ministers, military experts have prepared a working document that relates to a set of issues for settling the situation in Aleppo," the Russian diplomat said.

"Now this document is at the ministers’ consideration," Bogdanov said. 

"We hope that it will be possible to finally agree it," the Russian diplomat said.

Russia condemns ungrounded accusations to its aerospace forces

The diplomat stressed Russia condemns ungrounded accusations to the its aerospace forces and insists on thorough investigation of any incidents during the civil war in Syria.

He said there is a big gap between accusations and demands for a probe into "some incidents that occur during the civil war as result of violence in Aleppo, and not only in Aleppo but in other places in Syria."

"That is why we have always been saying in situations of any questions linked with human rights violations or strikes against humanitarian convoys that these incidents should be seriously investigated before throwing any accusation, and these accusations are mostly directed against Russia and the Syrian ruling regime," Bogdanov said. "There are specialists, United Nations structures which can deal with this matters professionally to give answers to the questions of concern for our opponents and for us as well."

"We never accuse anyone until a relevant investigation is over and we have facts proving these or those suspicions," the Russian diplomat stressed. "Everyone may have suspicions but they are to be translated into the language of facts, referred for professional investigation.".

Tensions in Syria surged after breakdown of Russia-US accords

The diplomat said Russia can state a grave deterioration in Syria as a result of a breakdown of the September 9, 2016, Russian-U.S. accords.

"We're stating a sharp escalation of tensions in Syria in the wake of disruption of the September 9 agreements between Russia and the U.S.," he said. "The package of documents coordinated then is a summary of all the understandings reached at the international level earlier and mirrored in the UN Security Council's resolutions 2254 and 2268, in the decisions of the Syria International Support Group, and the June 30, 2012, Geneva communique.

"But the U.S. failed to fulfill its part of the obligations or didn't feel like doing it for the reasons known to no one else but itself," Bogdanov said. "In the first place, (it failed) to ensure the separation of the so-called moderate opposition from Jabhat Al-Nousra and other terrorist groupings."

"We're confident the ceasefire can and must be resumed," he said. "A clue to the situation is found in the separation of the moderates and the terrorists."

"This in turn requires guarantees and practical steps on the part of external actors who have a capability to influence the armed opposition," Bogdanov said.

"We remain confident there is no alternative to political settlement based on an inclusive political dialogue that embraces all the political, ethnic and denomination components of Syrian society," he said.

Putin, Obama discussed separation of terrorists and opposition

The diplomat said separation of terrorists and the opposition in Syria was discussed at the level of Russian and US presidents.

He was speaking in response to question from political scientist Pyotr Dutkevich as to whether it was true that at the Putin-Obama meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hangzhou in early September the US leader promised to ensure the separation within seven days, adding that if that did not happen, Russia would have a free hand to resume combat operations in Aleppo and around it.

"The question of separating terrorists, first and foremost, Jabhat al-Nusra and the moderate opposition has been discussed for many months. It was considered at all levels - by Putin and Obama, too. And it was discussed at all other levels, with US Department of State, CIA and Pentagon officials," Bogdanov said.

"As far as we understand, and our American partners said that too that there were different approaches between U.S. agencies but in the long run it is up to the president to consolidate these approaches and voice the country’s final official position," the Russian diplomat said, adding that this question should be referred to the United States’ representatives in order to have their vision of the problem.

According to the Russian diplomat, the problem of separation of Syria’s moderate opposition from terrorists was discussed with CIA Director John Brennan when he visited Moscow as far back as February 2016 and he vowed the U.S. side would spare no effort to do that.

"The question of where to deliver strikes has always been topical and our leaders told journalists more than once that a year after the American had launched their operation, bombardments in Syria, and did it without the Syrian government’s consent, without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, our aerospace forces began their operation we were accused of bombing terrorists," Bogdanov said. "We told our American partners back then, ‘If you know where terrorists are, tell us their locations.’ They answered, ‘No, you are bombing the moderate opposition.’ We said, ‘Please tell us where the moderate opposition is so that we spare them.’ And this talk continued for months. Then, it became evident that both terrorists and the opposition stay in one place and they are not separated from each other, maybe they even have understanding of what to do. So, the problem of separation was very topical for the Americans too."

"In the long run, we have wasted too much time since February believing all these promises and agreements on ceasefire not only in Aleppo but in the entire country to hear the Americans say they don’t have enough time and that, regrettably, even the opposition cannot withdraw because many Syrian opposition groups do not obey, because there are other regional countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar which are supporting the opposition and need to be talked with," he said. "We spoke with them too. I have already said that in Lausanne there was a meeting with regional players who have contacts with the moderate opposition. And they, too, promised to take effort."

"We agreed to continue work in the five-lateral format in Geneva at the expert level - we, the Americans, the Qatari, the Saudi and the Turks - to coordinate concrete aspects of the separation of the opposition from terrorists. So, these issues have really been discussed at various level," Bogdanov said, adding that, regrettably, no separation has taken place as of yet.

No alternative to political settlement 

According to Bogdanov, Russia insists on political settlement of the situation in Syria.

"We are confident that there is no alternative to the political settlement. We have principled positions on that matter," the Russian diplomat said.

"It is up to the Syrians to decide who will govern Syria," he stressed.

The Russian diplomat reminded that the procedure is committed to paper in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. "It provides for drafting a new constitution, its approval at a referendum and democratic elections under strict control by the United Nations," Bogdanov said.

Syria truce must be restored 

The diplomat went on to say that the separation of terrorists and the opposition is needed to restore the ceasefire regime in Syria.

"We are convinced that the ceasefire regime in Syria should and can be restored. The separation of the moderate [opposition] and terrorists is key to this," Bogdanov said.

"But we need guarantees and practical efforts of those international players who can influence the armed opposition," the diplomat said, adding that the United States had failed or did not want to ensure the separation of opposition and terrorists in Syria despite earlier promises.

Israel torpedoing its liabilities on Middle East 

Bogdanov said the Israeli authorities are torpedoing their liabilities on the Middle East settlement.

He noted that a key factor promoting extremist moods among the Palestinian youth is the Israeli government’s policy of creating ‘irreversible facts on the ground.’

"We have to state that the Israeli authorities are as a matter of fact torpedoing their liabilities on the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and continue their settlement activities on the occupied territories," the Russian diplomat said.

"Obviously, stabilization in the zone of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will take place only when a possibility is opened for the relaunch of substantive talks on the basis of generally recognized international resolutions," he added.