IRNA — Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Turkey, Iran, the Syrian government and the armed opposition, as well as Russia, all play an important role in ensuring that the Syrian ceasefire works.
The Moscow-based RT news agency quoted Putin as saying in an exclusive interview with Le Figaro.
The Russian president, when asked about the Western claims that the Syrian government of Bashar Asssad used chemical weapons against its own people, the Russian leader reiterated that the accusations were groundless and politically motivated.
He reminded that that when the alleged attack happened in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4, Moscow called on Washington and other interested parties to send inspectors to the Syrian airfield from where the alleged chemical weapons originated as well as to the site of the bombing.
However, both Russian proposals were refused by the Western partners, Putin said, adding, “If chemical weapons were used by President al-Assad’s official agencies, modern verification equipment would certainly find traces of this.”
‘In my opinion, the accusations have been made for the sole purpose of justifying the use of additional measures, including military ones, against Assad. That is all. There is no proof that Assad has used chemical weapons. We firmly believe that this is a provocation. President Assad did not use chemical weapons,’ he said.
Putin said that he agreed with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the use of chemical weapons in Syria was ‘a red line’.
‘Moreover, I believe that this issue should be addressed on a broader scale. President Macron shares this view. No matter who uses chemical weapons against people and organizations, the international community must formulate a common policy and find a solution that would make impossible use of such weapons for anyone,’ the Russian leader said.
Putin highlighted the role of an agreement to establish four de-escalation zones in Syria, free from fighting between Syrian government and rebels, and called it ‘an extremely important milestone’ towards a political settlement.
However, he added that the zones should not ‘become a prototype for the future territorial division in Syria’.
“On the contrary, I expect that these de-escalation zones, if peace is established, and the people who will be controlling them, will cooperate with the official Syrian authorities,” the Russian president said.
The nascent cooperation within these zones should pave the way for a broader political reconciliation, followed by a new constitution and elections, Putin said, stressing that only the Syrian people have the right to decide the political future of their country and, in particular, of President Assad.