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Russian diplomat voices concern over US presence in Syria

A Russian diplomat calls on the US to leave Syria

GENEVA, December 15. /TASS/. The remaining US military presence in Syria after the victory over the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) arouses concerns, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Geneva office and other Geneva-based international organizations Alexei Borodavkin said.

"We believe that after the victory over the IS there is no need for the US-led coalition to further remain in Syria, especially given that they had not been invited there," the diplomat said. "So, we are calling on the Americans to pack their rucksacks and go." "But apparently, this is not part of their plans, and this arouses concerns," he said.

According to the Russian envoy, there is a broad strategic understanding between Russia and the United States concerning the Syria issue, reflected in the joint statement adopted by the two countries’ presidents in Vietnam’s Da Nang. "Our stances on some issues differ but nevertheless we hope that we will be able to maintain both political and military interaction and cooperation with the United States," he added.

"Our military will remain in Hmeymim and Tartus. So, we will help Syrian partners in the fight against international terrorism, in particular, Jabhat al-Nusra, which is still active in Syria," the diplomat said.

The potential of Syria's military created with Russia’s support is enough for fighting against terrorists, the diplomat noted. "In his speeches and, first of all, when he visited our military base in Hmeymin, [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin made it clear that, following the wipeout of ISIS (the former name of the Islamic State, a terror organization that is outlawed in Russia) in Syria, the Syrian armed forces are now capable of independently repelling terror aggression on their territory," the diplomat said, noting that this potential of the Syrian armed forces "was created with our help and support, and now it is sufficient to conduct military action and defeat terrorists on Syria’s territory."

"However, if a serious terror threat emerges in Syria again, then, as President Putin said, the Russian armed forces will carry out such strikes over terrorists which they can’t imagine," the Russian diplomatic mission head continued. "The Russian military group is withdrawing from Syria, but our servicemen will remain at the air military base in Hmeymim and at the naval base in Tartus.".

Assad resignation

The Syrian opposition should abandon its demand for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he said. 

When commenting on the outcome of the eighth round of the intra-Syrian talks, she said that "their position is based on the demand for Bashar al-Assad’s immediate resignation." "They have reiterated it many times in Geneva while talking to reporters. The same absurd, unrealistic and irresponsible demand is mentioned in their document adopted at the second opposition conference in Riyadh.

"First of all, the opposition itself, as well as its sponsors, should understand that those opposing President Bashar al-Assad should abandon such demands," Borodavkin noted.

The Syrian National Dialogue Congress

The diplomat said the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, planned to be held in Russia’s Sochi, may give a positive impetus to the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.

He stressed that the outcome of the eighth round of the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, which concluded on Friday, was not "very optimistic," "so all eyes are now on the Russian-Syrian initiative to convene the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi." "I think this is an opportunity that neither the Syrians nor the major players seeking to resolve the issue, nor the United Nations should lose," the Russian envoy noted.

"Everybody should join active preparations for the congress, working on the list of its participants, agenda and possible results, like Russia, Iran and Turkey have been doing, who, as we know, have supported the event and expressed readiness to participate," Borodavkin stressed.

Borodavkin also said that "allegations that the Sochi congress may undermine the Geneva political process" were groundless. According to him, "the Sochi event may help build positive momentum at the Geneva talks." "These are mere speculations and attempts to create artificial obstacles preventing serious preparations for the forum," the Russian envoy said.

"We are confident that just like the Astana process helped continue activities on the Geneva track, the Sochi event may help the Geneva talk gain positive momentum," he noted. "So one should say not ‘Sochi or Geneva,’ but ‘Sochi and Geneva,’ which is what the Russian president and foreign minister have pointed to many times, while other assessments are misleading and aimed only at disrupting the political process," Borodavkin noted.

Borodavkin also said that "allegations that the Sochi congress may undermine the Geneva political process" were groundless. According to him, "the Sochi event may help build positive momentum at the Geneva talks."

"The eighth round of intra-Syrian talks has ended in Geneva. Unfortunately, its results don’t inspire much optimism," the diplomat said. "The opposition delegation arrived for the talks with the position that in fact cannot be called negotiating," Borodavkin said.

"Such policy of the opposition makes the participation in Geneva discussions simply impossible for the other side, a delegation of the legitimate Syrian government. That is why, this round ended in nothing," the diplomat said.

"The delegation that comes here from Damascus should be called a delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic’s government, not a delegation of the regime," he said.

He pointed to a need to add certain points to the opposition’s position, "namely support for and readiness to participate in joint fight against what remains of ISIS (the former name of Islamic State, outlawed in Russia) and Nusra (the outlawed in Russia terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra) on the Syrian territory," Borodavkin said. "Probably the opposition should also think about showing support for peace efforts to stop warfare and for the creation and functioning of de-escalation zones," he opined.

"It is necessary that the opposition clearly indicates in its documents that it sees no military solution to the conflict in Syria, but intends to work on a political settlement in that country," Borodavkin said.

Moscow values the efforts that UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has been making to find a political solution to the Syria issue, but not everything depends on him, he went on. 

When commenting on the outcome of the eighth round of the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva, he said that "we highly value and support the efforts that Staffan de Mistura made before this round and during the talks, but unfortunately, not everything depends on the United Nations," the Russian envoy said. "The parties to the conflict are responsible for the talks," he added.

Borodavkin pointed out that de Mistura had brought the discussions to four negotiation tracks, "then he took a step further and formed three ‘baskets,’ which particularly referred to the constitutional process, the fight against terrorism and preparations for the UN-sponsored elections." "These were the right steps to take, so we support them and believe that some progress may be achieved in this field," the Russian envoy said.

"But the matter is that we don’t see that the leaders of the opposition delegation formed in Riyadh are ready to discuss these issues," Borodavkin added. "On the contrary, they have been focusing on their unacceptable and categorical demand for Assad’s resignation, which is unreasonable under the current circumstances," the Russian diplomat stressed.