Medvedev: US-led coalition’s ground operation in Syria will result in long war

Moscow, Feb 15, IRNA – No one is interested in a new war and a ground operation in to Syria will result in a full-fledged, long war, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in reference to the US-led coalition’s threat to start ground operation in the war-torn Syria.

Medvedev made the remarks in an interview with Euronews TV channel’s Global Conversation presenter Isabelle Kumar on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

Speaking about the Munich Security Conference’s topics, he said, ‘It is true that Syria dominates the conference’s agenda. This is due to obvious reasons, since the country is engulfed in a civil war. You know, as I was heading to this conference, I had a feeling that the situation in this area is very complex and challenging because we have yet to come to an agreement with our colleagues and partners on key issues, including the creation of a possible coalition and military cooperation. All interactions in this respect have been episodic so far. I note that here, in Munich, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Secretary of State John Kerry, and other colleagues acting in various capacities later joined them. They agreed on what should be done in the short run. For this reason, I’m cautiously optimistic about the prospects for cooperation on this issue. Let me emphasize that this cooperation is critical, because unless we come together on this issue, there will be no end to the war in Syria, people will keep dying, the massive influx of refugees to Europe will continue, and Europe will have to deal with major challenges. Most importantly, we will be unable to overcome terrorism, which is a threat to the entire modern civilization.’

To a question about Russia policy for de-escalation of Syria conflict, Russian prime minister said, ‘Let me remind you the reasons behind Russia’s involvement in Syria. The first reason that compelled Russia to take part in this campaign is the protection of national interests. There are many fighters in Syria who can go to Russia at any time and commit terrorist attacks there. There are thousands of them in Syria’.

Medvedev added ‘Second, there is a legal foundation in the form of the request by President al-Assad. We will therefore take these two factors into account in our military decisions, and, obviously, the developments in the situation. What matters most at this point is to agree on launching the talks between all the parties to the Syrian conflict. Another important thing is to coordinate a list of terrorist groups, since this issue has been a matter of endless debates on who’s good and who’s bad. I believe that everything is quite clear in this respect, and everything else is just a spanner in the works. This is the first point I wanted to make’.

‘My second point is the following. Today, I learned that Secretary of State John Kerry said that if Russia and Iran do not help, the US will be ready to join other countries in carrying out a ground operation. These are futile words, he should not have said that for a simple reason: if all he wants is a protracted war, he can carry out ground operations and anything else. But don’t try to frighten anyone. Agreements should be reached along the same lines as Mr Kerry’s conversations with Mr Lavrov, instead of saying that if something goes wrong, other Arab countries and the US will carry out a ground operation,’ the Russian premier noted.

He underlined ‘I’ve answered this question only recently. But let me reiterate that no one is interested in a new war, and a ground operation is a full-fledged, long war. We must bear this in mind’.

Speaking about the future of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, he reiterated that ‘Russia does not support President al-Assad personally, but maintains friendly relations with Syria as a country. These ties were built not under Bashar al-Assad, but back when his father, Hafez al-Assad, was president. This is my first point in this respect.’

‘Second, we have never said that this is the main issue for us in this process. We simply believe that there is currently no other legitimate authority in Syria apart from Bashar al-Assad. He is the incumbent president, whether anyone likes it or not. Taking him out of this equation would lead to chaos. We have seen that on numerous occasions in the Middle East, when countries simply fell apart, as it happened with Libya, for example,’ Russian premier added.

‘It is for that reason that he should take part in all the procedures and processes, and it should be up to the Syrian people to decide his destiny. He fully understands that. During his visit to Moscow, he said that if the people do not support him, he will naturally step down. However, he should remain in office until the future political order is agreed upon, as well as how the country is to be governed. This is Russia’s take on this issue’.

Regarding the transition of power in Syria, Medvedev said, ‘I don’t think that we should go into too much detail on these issues. I’m talking about Russia, the European Union and the United States. We should focus on facilitating the launch of this process. We must make sure that everyone sits down at the negotiating table, in fact, make them talk to each other, so that maybe they close their eyes to the mutual grievances they might have and the outstanding issues. This is the way to national conciliation. Given that Syria is a multi-religious country, the need for everyone to hear the other parties is extremely important.’

‘We all understand what this dialogue will look like. Let’s be honest and recognize that it will be anything but simple given the parties involved. On one side, you have President al-Assad, supported by a part of society and the military, and, on the other side, the other part of society, often representing different confessions, people who don’t like al-Assad but have to sit with him at the same negotiating table.’

‘Nevertheless, they need to come to an agreement for the sake of keeping Syria united. I see our mission as countries seeking to facilitate this process in making sure that these talks get underway and help the parties deal with sensitive issue,’ he added.

To a question about the ongoing offensive against Aleppo and all the suffering it is causing, he noted that ‘Russia will be guided in its actions by the existing agreements with President al-Assad, on the one hand, and the agreements that we are currently trying to reach with other countries, on the other hand, including with our negotiating partners, that is the United States and other countries. However, decisions on ending combat operations depend on whether the parties involved are willing to lay down arms and how fast. In fact, when one group stops fighting, while the other begins to build on its military success, this is the most dangerous situation. All it does is escalate the conflict. It is for that reason that there should be a common decision on when to stop military action. This should be our objective. Russia came forward with this initiative on 4 February. There was some hesitation among our US colleagues. They discussed this issue in many ways, they had to overcome the persistent
disagreements between the Department of State and the Department of Defence, appealed to Barack Obama, and seem to have come to an agreement in the end. Let’s hope that there will be no delays from now on. This will be the starting point for Russia. That said, the final decision rests with the President of Russia, who is the Commander-in-Chief of our Armed Forces’.

By IRNA