Although the armed conflict in Syria started over four years ago, the past few weeks have seen a surge of international interest due to the decision of the Russian Government to launch a military air force operation against “Islamic State” in coalition with the Syrian army.
Priorities of Russia’s policy in Syria are: firstly, strengthening Syrian state institutions, and secondly, organising a joint fight against terrorists by forming a united front with anti-terrorist forces in Syria and all those who are committed to eliminating this tremendous threat.
It has been repeatedly stated by the Russian Government that active operations on the Syrian soil will be limited in time to the Syrian army’s offensive. The task is to stabilise the legitimate government and establish conditions that will make it possible to achieve a political compromise.
In the legal context, Russia is acting in this situation in full compliance with international law, i.e. at the request of the Syrian Arab Republic’s official government. All other countries that have so far taken part in operations in Syria are acting unlawfully, because there is no UN Security Council resolution on these operations, and no official request from the Syrian authorities.
The President of Russia Vladimir Putin said in a recent TV interview that since Russia has a mandate from the Syrian authorities to act, “the simplest solution would be for others to join us and work within this same mandate. Unfortunately, we have not been able to reach any such agreement so far with our partners and colleagues, but we do not lose hope that this might yet be possible”.
One can easily notice that Western media are vigorously disseminating reports that the Russian air force is allegedly hitting positions where there are no ISIS forces and that it is also attacking and killing civilians, the so-called “moderate opposition” rather than ISIS militants.
Russian authorities have clearly and unambiguously informed all stakeholders that the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces in Syria are being used solely to fight against organised groups of international terrorists (this applies to the “Islamic State’ and other terrorist groups).
In his interview, mentioned above, President Putin reasonably wonders why our partners, who may know the situation on the ground better and who have already been present in Syria for more than a year, do not want to share with Russia information on targets. “I cannot see why, after all, if they really know the situation better and want to fight terrorism, they could share with us concrete locations where the terrorists are hiding out an d have their command posts and arms and equipment depots”, - Putin continues.
Nevertheless, Moscow is doing its best to engage as many partners as possible to contribute to the common cause of fighting international terrorism. Together with Iran, Syria and Iraq, a Joint Coordination Centre was created in Baghdad tasked with collecting and analysing information about the situation in the Middle East. Efforts are made to establish cooperation with military authorities of Israel, the United States and Turkey.
At the Russian-Saudi meeting on October 11, President Putin and Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud held an extensive discussion on the measures that could bring Syria closer to a peaceful political process.
The two countries confirmed that they share common goals with respect to Syria, with the main one being to prevent the triumph of a terrorist caliphate. They discussed a range of options that would put the Geneva Communique of June 30, 2012 in practice, as well as various approaches. It was agreed that the parties would use them to guide their further action.
Embassy of Russia in Botswana