Russian envoy: Tehran partner of Moscow in fight against terrorism

IRNA – Iran is a strategic partner of Russia in various spheres, including the fight against terrorism, the Russian envoy to Lebanon said, denouncing the US accusations against Tehran on destabilizing the region.

‘We believe that Iran is fighting terrorism shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia,’ said Alexander Zasypkin in an exclusive interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) which was published on Tuesday.

What the Zionist regime of Israel and the US claim against Iran is not convincing Russia. The priority should be given to politics and facts, rather than propaganda and hypocrisy, Zasypkin added.

He said, ‘We want the region to be stable and ask every country to behave proportionately to their territorial size, away from expansionism and greed.’

‘Russia does not see such negative behaviors from Iran, therefore, we are sure that Iran is seeking to make the situation calm,’ said the Russian ambassador.

‘When unrests sparked off in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and then in Syria, the developments unraveled very quickly. Many members of the armed terrorist groups infiltrated those countries. The groups that were against the governments were armed, and supported by international and regional parties. They thought the government would be overthrown within two weeks. Russia and Iran decided to back the Syrian government, but after a while, some started accusing us of intervention, they were the same parties that had supported terrorists against the legal government of Syria. These are the facts that should not be forgotten,’ Zasypkin stressed.

Answering a question on comments by some analysts that recent air attack against a Syrian military base by Israeli planes was a message to Moscow, he said that Israel had attacked the country even before presence of the Russian troops in Syria.

‘Moscow and Tel Aviv has agreed to avoid aerial confrontation; the bombing has to do with Syria and Hezbollah, rather than Russia,’ the Russian envoy added.

He also rejected the possibility of waging war by Israel against Syria or Hezbollah, saying that there was no indication of such a war.

Speaking on putting Lebanese Hezbollah on the terrorist organizations list by Western states, he said that Russia’s priority is the fight against terrorism, including the Daesh and al-Nusra Front and their allies.

‘We are cooperating with Syria and its allies, including Hezbollah, and reject all Western resolutions which refer to the group as terrorist. It is a principled stance of Russia and Moscow will announce it from all international tribunes.’

However, he fell short of confirming that his country is going to veto any upcoming anti-Hezbollah resolution in the United Nations, describing it a decision that should be made by Russian leaders and its representative in the international body.

As to the relations Russia has simultaneously both with Israel and Lebanon, despite the enmity between the two, the envoy said that Moscow hold talks with all parties, even those clashing in the region. ‘This is Russia’s strength that makes it effective in the developments of the region,’ he added.

‘We are working with the Syrian government, and at the same time, we have talks with the Turks and Saudis to reach a political solution. The idea of creating de-escalation zones in Syria was born out of the contacts we have made with the Turks.’

The ambassador stressed that Russia had pursued the policy of establishing ties with Israelis and Arabs in the past decades in order to find a comprehensive solution for the Palestinian conflict based on the UN Security Council resolutions.

Speaking on the conditions on the ground in Syria following the Deir ez-Zor war that was called by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a ‘strategic victory’, the Russian diplomat said that Moscow has been performing within a framework that can be regarded as the Russia’s fixed political principles on the Syria’s future. The same principles have formed the underlying bases of the Geneva statement, some parts of which were included in the UN Security Council 2254, Zasypkin added.

‘Based on those principles, various plans were offered and efforts were made towards holding the Geneva talks backed by the UN, and the process is going on until today aimed at reaching a political solution,’ Zasypkin said.

‘Some efforts also have been made, on the ground, to create a mutual understanding between the US and Russia. The Aleppo ceasefire was the result of the same mutual understanding, but the Americans and Obama administration killed it. Therefore, we started talks with Iran and Turkey, and we came up with some good results. Then, the Astana talks were established, and the process led to an agreement on creating four de-escalation zones, three of which are created and the last one is under construction.’

The envoy noted that the arrangement related to the de-escalation zones is tentative and special significance should not be attributed to it.

‘The situation is tentative and will be changed; therefore it would not lay a ground for Syria’s disintegration, gives and takes or the influence of some specific groups. Some people think that this situation is a prelude to dividing Syria, but this is a wrong assumption. I must emphasize that the divisions are tentative and related to security, rather than having to do with politics.’

Commenting on Syria’s political condition, he said that the aspect would be realized via national talks between Syrian groups, and it will be the result of agreements being made in various parts of the country through efforts among Syrian officials and the expatriate oppositions in Geneva talks.

‘A problem with the talks is that the expatriate oppositions are divided; there is a group of the oppositions that can be regarded as national, and can play a role in the political future of Syria, but there are some other factions that put forth some impractical conditions.’

Commenting on the issue of withdrawal of the Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, Zasypkin said it is one of the ‘impractical conditions’ which aimed at stopping the Syrian peace talks. ‘It is unreal and impossible,’ stressed the Russian ambassador.

‘Today, given the developments on the ground and the advances on fighting against terrorism, the real opportunity to overcome the hurdles has been reached, and this motivates the parties of the [Syrian peace] talks,’ he added.

‘It should be emphasized that two issues of the regime change in Syria and President Assad’s removal are ruled out,’ Zasypkin noted.

Speaking on Saudi Arabia’s policies on Lebanon and Syria, the envoy said that it is not unlikely that Riyadh has given up its approach which was based on a Syria without Assad in recent era.

Probably, the Saudi Arabia is making a little progress, but that is not enough, Zasypkin said adding, ‘What is important to us is actions not words.’

‘Supports to the terrorists should be stopped, and this would become clear in the upcoming phase whether there has been any change with this regard or not,’ the envoy said.

Speaking on the contradictions between any possible change in Saudi policies towards Iran and the remarks by Saudi officials including Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Thamer Al-Sabhan, the Saudi Minister of State for the [Persian] Gulf region, he said there is no answer to the inconsistencies, referring to Sabhan’s recent comments that ‘the Lebanese must choose if they are for or against’ Hezbollah.

‘The statement means a persuasion to division, but the question it arises is that ‘do the Saudis want the Lebanese community be divided?’,’ he argued.

‘The international community should encourage people to find commonalities that lead to national accords’, Zasypkin said adding, ‘A be-with-this-or-against-that sort of statements do not help a peaceful coexistence.’

Answering a question on the possibility of keeping the indifferences between Russia and the US away from the agreement they have reached on Syria, he expressed hope that the situation would progress to the better and the disagreements would not affect the Syria issue.

‘We are ready to cooperate with the US, even in one single issue,’ the ambassador added.

The ongoing negative atmosphere on Russia-US relations seems to continue, Zasypkin said adding that the Americans ‘are not seeking cooperation with Russia, the attacks on Russia and their sanctions are going on, as they are trying to exhaust us economically.’

‘The US wants to stabilize certain military bases that it has constructed in Syria. Our stance is clear: we believe that any military activity in Syria without Damascus agreement is illegal. The US military activities in Syria, even against terrorism, are illegitimate. We are witnessing the US blind bombardments in Syria which are paramount to crimes against civilians; the behaviors are denounced.’

‘The US records show that it has attacked some Syrian military bases, under the pretext of eradicating chemical weapons. The same behavior may repeat. We should stay mindful. Escalation and stance changes are not unlikely. True, the advances on the ground are in favor of the Resistance and Russian forces, but any reaction to the changes of the US stances should be made cautiously,’ the Russian diplomat stressed.