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Syrian diplomat: Combat actions near Aleppo needed for offensive in Raqqa

Syria's army is conducting combat actions near Aleppo to prepare for the further offensive against terrorists in Raqqa and near Deir ez-Zor, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said in an exclusive interview with TASS on Tuesday.

"Now the Syrian army is fighting in Aleppo. The combat actions in Aleppo are carried out due to the need for the further offensive in Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor and so on," he said. "The Syrian army will reach all the areas where the terrorist groups are active."

Mekdad said "there is no area in Syria that is closed for the Syrian army." "But the army judges from the priority of the tasks that have been set," he added. "Taking this into consideration, it carries out an offensive on the areas that need to be liberated."

The Syrian diplomat noted the role of Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah movement in the successes of the Syrian army over the past weeks.

"The Syrian resistance would have been impossible without the support of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. The achievements of the Syrian army in Palmyra and Al-Qaryatayn would have been impossible without the backing of our Russian friends," he stressed.

Surgical instruments medicaments not part of humanitarian aid in Syria

The diplomat stressed that the Syrian government took all necessary measures to ensure that humanitarian aid, including medicaments, reaches those in need.

"We have taken all measures, and are still taking all necessary measures to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need," Mekdad said. "UN and US, in particular, recognized the role of the Syrian government in this issue, and precisely that the government is actively participating in providing humanitarian aid to all those in need. We take in account recommendations of our Russian friends on this matter," he added.

Mekdad noted that two categories of cargoes that can be used by terrorists are not part of humanitarian aid. "We are talking about surgical instruments, as there are no doctors there. We do not think that they should be obtained by armed people that may use them for other purposes," he said. "We do not send medicaments as well as they can be used to create chemical weapons," he noted adding that "other medicaments reach their addressees."

Russia's withdrawal from Syria

According to the official, the withdrawal of the main part of Russian aviation task force from Syria has not had any negative impact on the cooperation between Moscow and Damascus in the fight against terrorism.

"We deeply respect all decisions made by the Russian president," Mekdad said. "The withdrawal of some Russian forces has not in any way negatively affected Russian-Syrian fight against terrorism," he added.

The diplomat added that Syria "feels and sees Russia's support in the fight against terrorism and expresses infinite gratitude for this." "We are very content with the Russian position regarding Syria on different issues. The Russian president and Russian leadership are making right steps," he said.

Mekdad noted that "if the West followed Russia's recommendations in the fight against terrorism, there would have been no such terrorist attacks in Europe."

The Kremlin press service released a statement on March 14 that the Russian and Syrian presidents, Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad, agreed to start withdrawing the main part of the Russian aviation task force from Syria because the Russian Aerospace Forces had fulfilled the fundamental tasks which had been assigned to them. Russia's Aerospace Defense Forces started delivering strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups (both banned in Russia) on September 30, 2015.

Russia left an air flight control center in the Syrian territory that will monitor the observation of the Syrian ceasefire, the Kremlin said. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered starting the Russian troops' withdrawal as of March 15. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov said earlier that Russian forces will continue delivering airstrikes at terrorists in Syria.

[Source: Itar Tass, Damascus, 12Apr16]

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