Bringing peace to Syria (by Ambassador Yakovenko for "Sunday Mirror", published on 20.11.2016)

It has to be borne in mind that Russia sent its Air Force to Syria only on 30 September 2015. According to our Western interlocutors, it was a critical moment when Damascus was about to fall to the ISIS onslaught. The foreign terrorist organizations, proscribed by the UN, such as ISIS and “Nusra”, are the single most important factor that distorted the entire setup in Syria.

In fact, the terrorists are leading the opposition militarily, including in East Aleppo. Accordingly, if they call the tune on the battlefield, they’ll do the same in Syria if they prevail. Our only strategy in Syria is to allow the Syrians to decide for themselves.

The Syrian opposition, if it is to be a credible partner in the political process, should disengage from the terrorists. They are offered places at the table in Geneva. The open-ended political talks will be aided by the International Syria Support Group, of which Britain is a member.

Use of the Air Force in Syria is part of a diplomacy backed by force, which is the central point in foreign policy strategies of our Western partners. We have been trying to coordinate with this US Administration. We’ll continue doing so with the next one.

Already for a month our Air Force hasn’t been attacking East Aleppo. The Air Force operations resumed to hit terrorist infrastructure in the provinces of Idlib and Homs. No civilian infrastructure is targeted. The Russian military does what they can, based on the extensive reconnaissance, to exclude any loss of life among civilians. No lies will undermine our resolve.

Unfortunately, like in Mosul, the terrorists use civilians as human shields in East Aleppo. They also prevent delivery of humanitarian aid.

While fostering ceasefire at the grass-root level (almost 1000 villages have already signed up), our military has been delivering over 30 tons of food, clothes and medicines weekly. Some of this assistance is now delivered by rail (we helped repair the railway in Latakia).

The opposition doesn’t offer secular democracy. So far, their alternative seems to be an end of history rule by fanatics. Whatever the reasons for the dynamics of civil war in Syria, it is clear that the opposition can’t prevail militarily without outside assistance. This says a lot. Unlike, say, in the English civil war, people prefer to sit the violence out in refugee camps abroad. But most of them find refuge in the areas under government control. Syria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious sophisticated society with a deeply ingrained business culture. The deserve peace.