Air strikes by the Russian military in support of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have helped turn the tide in Syria, but UN-backed Syria talks planned to start later this week will not be successful if Kurdish representatives are not invited, says to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Russia says Syrian strikes have helped ‘turn around’ situation
STORIES:Russia says Syrian strikes have helped ‘turn around’ situation / Moscow (Russia) – 26 January 2016 09:46 – AFP – 2NDLEAD Air strikes by the Russian military in support of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have helped turn the tide in Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday.Lavrov said that the Russian air force’s strikes had “really helped to turn around the situation in the country, helped towards reducing the territory controlled by terrorists” since Moscow launched a bombing campaign at Assad’s request on September 30.Russia’s top diplomat also denied reports that Russia had asked long-time ally Assad to step down and offered him political asylum. “This is not true,” Lavrov said of media reports that Russia’s late military intelligence chief Igor Sergun had travelled to Syria to ask Assad to resign. “No one asked for political asylum and no one offered anything of the kind.”Russia has staunchly supported Assad’s beleaguered regime and said that his removal could not be a prerequisite for a deal to end the conflict, which has left more than 260,000 people dead and millions displaced.The West has accused Russia — whose jets carried out more than 5,000 combat sorties in Syria last year — of mainly targeting moderate rebels fighting the Assad regime as well as inflicting civilian casualties.Moscow meanwhile insists it is tackling “terrorist” groups such as Islamic State. Forces backing Assad have recently made several key gains on the ground.Regime forces backed up by several dozen Russian air strikes overnight captured the rebel stronghold of Sheikh Miskeen close to the border with Jordan, the British-based monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.Russian planes from Friday to Sunday carried out 169 flights, bombing almost 500 targets, the Russian defence ministry said Monday. Talks aiming to end the brutal war that has lasted almost five years are set to begin in Geneva on Friday after delays due to disagreements over who would represent the splintered opposition, United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters.am/gtf/del/pdw///Russia says Syria talks will ‘not achieve results’ if Kurds not invited / Moscow (Russia) – 26 January 2016 09:28 – AFP – LEAD Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday insisted that UN-backed Syria talks planned to start later this week will not be successful if Kurdish representatives are not invited.UN envoy Staffan de Mistura was due to send out invites Tuesday to opposition groups to attend the talks after negotiations were delayed several days to Friday due to a “stalemate” over the makeup of the delegations.Lavrov said that one of the international powers backing the Syria talks — most likely meaning Turkey — was objecting to the participation of the Kurds and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in particular. “Without this party, without this participant the talks cannot achieve the results that we want, a definitive political resolution in Syria,” Lavrov told journalists at his main annual press conference. Lavrov said, however, that Russia would not “veto” the talks if the Kurds were not invited and that it was up to the UN envoy de Mistura to decide which opposition groups would be asked to attend.Turkey, which has condemned the PYD, has said that it wants to see some Syrian Kurds “around the table” at the talks. Turkey considers the PYD to be the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984.Last month, several key opposition bodies, including rebel groups, formed a coalition known as the High Negotiations Committee to participate in the mooted talks.But the coalition excludes Syria’s main Kurdish party the PYD and a range of other opposition figures.Ties between Russia and Turkey are in tatters over the shooting down last year of one of Moscow’s jets by Ankara along its border with Syria. Russia has been running a bombing campaign in Syria since last September in support of its longstanding ally President Bashar al-Assad, who is fiercely opposed by Turkey. del/am/pdw