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Russia, US discuss Syrian conflict in round-the-clock mode – defense minister
Russia and the United States continue discussing the situation in Syria in a round-the-clock mode and are preparing a joint project on the southern zone of de-escalation, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said at the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, on Wednesday.
"We did not halt contacts and cooperation with them, this is also happening almost in a round-the-clock mode, we are talking with them during the day and the night, and we are meeting at different venues," Shoigu said.
"A great work is underway with them," Shoigu said. "We would like it to be completed and presented as a project ready for implementation. But we are working with them and working, naturally, on the southern zone of de-escalation," the minister said.
The Russian Defense Ministry is also in touch on this zone with Jordan and Israel. "We enjoy a constructive dialogue," Shoigu said.
Russian aircraft carried out 4 times more missile attacks than coalition
Russia's Aerospace Forces made three times more sorties and delivered four times more missile and bomb attacks in Syria than the international coalition, according to Shoigu.
"The comparative analysis of results of actions in Syria by Russia's aviation and the international coalition shows that our Aerospace Forces, which had fewer aircraft, carried out three times more sorties and delivered four times more missile and bomb attacks," Shoigu said.
Political importance of Aleppo liberation
The liberation of Syrian Aleppo is of major political importance for the country, Shoigu said.
"Liberation of Aleppo, which is considered the second capital of Syria, was the main achievement of last year. This victory has not only military, but also major political importance for the whole country," Shoigu said.
He said last year a major group of Islamic State militants was defeated north of Aleppo. "It was for the first time that the Russian Aerospace forces and Turkish Air Force operated jointly against terrorists," he marked.
"Units of government troops supported by Russian aircraft approached the al-Assad reservoir and continue an offensive along the western bank of Euphrates River," the minister went on.
"Palmyra has been liberated, oil and gas fields Jizel, Haiyan and Shaer have been returned under government control. Besides, the situation has stabilized in the area of Hama," Shoigu said.
"Terrorists have been driven more than 30 kilometers away from the city. Under the mediation of Russian military, the withdrawal of more radical extremists and their families from Al-Waer in Hama suburbs, has been completed. As a result, the city is fully controlled by the Syrian government," Shoigu said.
Russia knows where terrorists keep chemical weapons components
Russian Defense Ministry has information at its disposal where the terrorist organizations Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) keep chemical weapons components, Shoigu said.
"There is evidence that both the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra have chemical weapons components. We know where the components are and who keeps them. Is there any guarantee that tomorrow they will not surface in some other country?" he said.
He called for joint and transparent international struggle against forces that have chemical weapons at their disposal.
Geneva peace talks on Syria running out of steam
The Geneva talks on hammering out a peace deal for Syria have run out of steam, Shoigu said, calling to start drafting a new Syrian constitution.
"What has been done in Geneva, to my mind, is the maximum of what is possible. We would like work on Syria's constitution and its future to start at these talks or at the Astana conference," the minister said.
"We would like to discuss issues on the constitution itself and the machinery for adopting the constitution. This envisages a new mechanism for electing the parliament and the Syrian leadership," Shoigu said.
The sixth round of the UN-hosted talks between Damascus and the Syrian opposition in Geneva was held on May 16-19. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura came up with an initiative to set up an expert system for discussing constitutional affairs.
Syria's authorities regain control over 700 settlements
A territory of more than 17,000 square kilometers and 705 settlements came under control of the Syrian government with the assistance of Russia's Armed Forces during the operation in the country, according to Shoigu.
This allowed returning more than 108,000 refugees back home only this year, he said.
Russia launched the operation in Syria on September 30, 2015, at the request of the country's President Bashar al-Assad.
[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 24May17]
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