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Syrian government backs idea to set up de-escalation zones — Lavrov

Moscow expects the talks on Syria in Geneva to resume in May

PORVOO /Finland/, May 4. /TASS/. The Syrian government supports the idea of setting up de-escalation zones in Syria discussed in Astana, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday following talks with his Finnish counterpart, Timo Soini.

"A relatively new idea of setting up the de-escalation zones in Syria with the participation of all parties concerned and, of course, with the consent of the Syrian government, which should be an important step towards consolidating the cessation of hostilities, is discussed in Astana," the minister said.

"We hope for the success of the current, fourth round of talks underway in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana first and foremost from the standpoint of consolidating the ceasefire, coordinating a mechanism of response to violations and carrying out mine-clearing operations," he said.

Lavrov said that discussions were afoot in Astana at the moment on a plan for zones of de-escalation in Syria.

"Among the issues being discussed in Astana is a relatively new idea of creating in Syria with the participation of all parties concerned and, of course, on the condition of the Syrian government’s consent, several de-escalation zones, which might turn out a major stride towards enhancing the cessation of hostilities," Lavrov said.

"We hope that the talks will continue in Geneva as early as this month, which are dedicated, above all, to efforts aimed at resolving an array of issues related to the political settlement of the conflict, when, in the end, the Syrian people themselves will determine the future of their country," Russia’s top diplomat said.

Chemical incident

Lavrov went on to says that Western countries have been trying to stall an impartial investigation of the April 4 chemical weapons incident in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun.

"We expressed our common concern over the April 4 incident involving the use of chemical weapons," he said. "Russia insists on professional, thorough and transparent investigation, something our Western counterparts have been trying to upset."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Moscow is alarmed over the absence of a response from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to Russia’s proposal to probe the alleged chemical incident in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun, 

"We are very much alarmed over the absence of an adequate reaction from the OPCW to the Russian proposal to send a mission of experts from that organization to Syria," the spokeswoman said.

"Western partners are blocking the dispatch of such a mission in every possible way, which makes us convinced in the opinion that they don’t need the truth," the Russian diplomat said.

The conclusions made about the use of chemical weapons without the arrival of experts at the scene of the alleged chemical attack "more look like an analysis concocted by radicals from the Syrian opposition," the Russian diplomat said.

"It is necessary to look for culprits from among those who are interested in the escalation of the situation and the Syrian government can’t be referred to this category," the spokeswoman said