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Putin says Russia maintains working contacts with Syrian Kurds

Russia is not supplying armaments to Syrian Kurds, Putin stressed

BEJING, May 15. /TASS/. Russia considers it right to maintain working contacts with Kurdish units in Syria as they are fighting against terrorists but Moscow is not supplying weapons to Kurds, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

Putin thus commented on reports about Russian specialists’ contacts with Syrian Kurds.

"As the Kurdish factor is a real factor in the situation in Syria and Kurdish armed formations are taking part in combat operations against the so-called Islamic State [the terrorist grouping outlawed in Russia] and are among the most combat efficient units, we consider it right to maintain working contacts with them, even at least for avoiding possible collisions and situations that could create threats to our servicemen," the Russian leader said.

As Putin said, Russia is not supplying armaments to Syrian Kurds.

"There is no secret here: unlike other countries, we do not announce arms supplies to Kurdish formations and they don’t have any special need for our supplies as they have other sources of receiving these weapons. We do not think that we need anyhow to intensify this work," Putin said.

Putin said he had discussed this issue with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who voiced his concern on this theme.

"I don’t think there is something here that can cause the concern of our Turkish partners. We are in contact and our position is open and, I hope, will be understood by our Turkish partners," the Russian leader said.

Putin said he had also discussed with Erdogan the Turkish leader’s concern over US arms deliveries to Kurds in Syria.

"We are not doing this," Putin stressed.

Syria de-escalation zones to help consolidate ceasefire

The establishment of the de-escalation zones in Syria is aimed primarily at consolidating the cessation of hostilities, the reconciliation process in that country is impossible without that, Putin told reporters.

"I hope very much that this (the creation of de-escalation zones) will be an effective tool, above all, for maintaining the cessation of hostilities," Putin said. He noted that it is essential now to consolidate the ceasefire, which will be the basis for the subsequent political process. "If the situation evolves in accordance with this scenario, it will be possible to say that we are attaining the goals that have been set. "However, any effective political process, as we all understand, is out of the question without the ceasefire," the Russian leader added.

Putin thanked Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev for providing a negotiation venue in Astana where the parties were able to reach an agreement on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria. "However, at the moment it is necessary, and we will be doing that at military level at a meeting in Istanbul or in Ankara. Russia, Iran and Turkey will discuss, naturally, while maintaining permanent dialogue with the Syrian side, the specific boundaries of these de-escalation zones and control elements - how, where and who will control and what," the Russian president said, adding that these specific issues are up for discussion. "So far, it is early to talk about that in public," Putin noted.

Memorandum on de-escalation zones

On May 3-4, Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana hosted the fourth high-level international meeting on Syria. The countries acting as ceasefire guarantors - Russia, Turkey and Iran - signed a memorandum on setting up four de-escalation zones in Syria. According to Russia’s chief negotiator and Presidential Envoy on the Syrian Settlement, Alexander Lavrentiev, these zones are being established for a period of six months with the possibility of automatic extension for the same period.

The de-escalation zones are to be set up in four regions of Syria, namely, in the Idlib province and some parts of the neighboring provinces (Aleppo, Latakia and Hama), the area north of Homs, East Ghouta and some provinces in Syria’s southern parts - Daraa and Quneitra. A ban on military operations, including aviation flights, was imposed in the de-escalation zones as of May 6.