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Moscow ready to clarify issue of 'safe zones' in Syria with US

The Russian top diplomat added that Moscow is prepared to negotiate with US on combating terrorism "at any time"
Women outside the shelter in Jibreen, Syria AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Women outside the shelter in Jibreen, Syria
© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

MOSCOW, January 30. /TASS/.  Russia believes that it may be possible to create safe havens for internally displaced persons in Syrian territory, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after talks with Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Saleh Mohammed on Monday.

"As far as the idea of creating safe havens in Syrian territory is concerned, in the process of our dialog with our US counterparts we will try to clear up this theme," Lavrov said. "We see that the way this issue has been formulated is different from the ideas voiced at the previous phases of the Syrian crisis, in particular, the ideas that implied creation of a platform inside Syria for planting alternative governments there with the aim to use that floor as a stronghold for overthrowing the regime. This is an exact replica of the events that took place in Libya and were used as a pretext for military intervention in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions."

"As far as I understand, the US initiative for creating zones where migrants could feel themselves secure is aimed precisely at taking some steps in the context of easing the migration burden on countries that surround Syria, other countries of the region, Europe and, in the final count, the United States," Lavrov said.

"If the issue on the agenda is letting people who have been forced to abandon their homes as a result of the internal conflict in Syria feel secure, get the basic services and keep their children in safety where at least some education services are available until their homes have been restored and their native lands have returned to normal life, I believe that in cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other agencies, including the International Organization for Migration it might be possible to consider creation of safe havens for internally displaced persons in Syrian territory," Lavrov said. "Of course, this will require practical coordination of the details and the very principle of creating such territories with the Syrian government. Work along these lines is already in progress.

Cooperation with US 

Russia is prepared for negotiations with the United States on combating terrorism that would involve the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and other agencies any time, Sergey Lavrov said on Monday. 

"We will be ready for such a conversation involving the Defense Minsitry, intelligence services and diplomatic missions any moment," the minister said.  

Russia and the United States have unlimited possibilities for cooperation in the war on terror upon the availability of willpower:

"As for cooperation between Russia and the United States in the struggle against the ISIL [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the former name of the Islamic State terrorist group], then, as I have already said, this is a top priority for Russia and the US on the international scene, and this was clearly confirmed during a phone talk between the two presidents on January 28, and in this sphere I see actually unlimited possibilities upon the availability of the political will and the preparedness of our militaries to translate this will into specific accords and specific actions," the foreign minister said.

Syrian talks

The Syrian opposition that puts forward some preconditions for talks must be patiently invited to negotiate, but not persuaded to do so, Lavrov stressed.

"I believe that those interested in the settlement of the Syrian crisis and in creating conditions in which the Syrians themselves will be able to decide what they would like their country to be must accept the invitation to participate in the negotiating process," Lavrov said. "Those who put forward preconditions that UN Security Council resolutions do not provide for should be patiently invited to join in, I believe, but not persuaded."

"As soon as another round of intra-Syrian talks is announced, all known opposition figures should be invited. Those who wish to attend will attend," Lavrov said. "By and large it is up to the opposition to decide if they are to have a united delegation at the intra-Syrian talks. Of course, we would prefer to see it happen that way, but we see no big problem if there are several of them [delegates from the opposition]."

Lavrov recalled there was a new-comer to the negotiations on Syria - a group representing armed opposition that was represented by a common delegation in Astana.

"There is the unanimity that this group should be plugged into the negotiating process," Lavrov said. "The more so, since they have already started discussing certain issues with the government delegation in the preliminary fashion."

"It is clear that the dialogue is at the very beginning, but we hope that the draft constitution, circulated in Astana, will encourage the Syrians to look for mutually acceptable approaches," Lavrov said. "We proceed from the understanding that nobody will be able to dictate agreements from the outside, but bearing in mind the firm deadlock over the negotiations that were started at a certain point under the auspices of the United Nations, we have no doubts about the need for introducing some practical component to these efforts in order to encourage analysis and meaningful talks."