Syria denies Russia troops withdrawal linked to disagreement
Iran Press TV
Tue Mar 15, 2016 12:45AM
Damascus has denied that Russia's announcement to withdraw its military forces from the Arab country "reflects a Syrian-Russian difference."
Syria confirms that Russia's 'decision to reduce forces' was made 'in complete coordination between the Russian and Syrian sides, and is a step that was carefully and accurately studied for some time,' read a statement released by the Syrian presidential office on Monday.
The Syrian army also released a statement stressing that it will continue fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, 'and other terrorist groups linked to them.'
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that 'the main part' of the Russian forces would start to withdraw from Syria, and that diplomats had been called upon to increase their efforts for a peaceful solution to the five-year-long conflict.
"With the tasks set before the Defense Ministry and the military largely fulfilled, I'm ordering the defense minister to start the pull-out of the main part of our group of forces in Syria, beginning tomorrow," he said.
Following the announcement, the Kremlin released a statement saying that Putin and US President Barack Obama had discussed the move during a phone conversation.
'The presidents called for an intensification of the process for a political settlement to the Syria conflict, and voiced their support for the UN talks starting in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition,' read the statement.
Meanwhile, Russia's envoy to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin announced that the decision would aid the peace talks.
'Our diplomacy has received marching orders to intensify our efforts to achieve a political settlement in Syria,' he said adding, 'We are in the political mode now, in the cessation of hostilities mode.'
The envoy noted that a Russian military presence will remain in Syria but "will be directed mostly at making sure that the ceasefire, the cessation of hostilities, is maintained.'
A ceasefire agreement, brokered by Russia and the US, entered into force in Syria late last month. The truce has been largely holding, resulting in a dramatic drop in civilian casualties.
In response to Russia's announcement, the so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said that the withdrawal would be positive for the peace talks.
'If there is seriousness in implementing the withdrawal, it will give the talks a positive push,' said Salim al-Muslat, the spokesman for the Saudi-backed group.
A fresh round of Syrian peace talks began in Geneva on Monday after the first round collapsed in early February as the HNC left the negotiations amid gains made by the Syrian army against militants on several fronts.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country's pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.
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