Assad’s Moscow visit highlights importance of cooperation in resolving Syrian crisis: Russian expert

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MOSCOW, (Xinhua) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Russia not only shows Moscow’s support of Damascus’ legitimate right in securing peace, but highlights the importance of cooperation in resolving the protracted crisis in the country, a Russian expert has said.

“If there is a wish to reach a political settlement, the official Syrian authorities cannot be excluded from political dialogues,” Azhdar Kurtov, chief editor of the journal Problems of National Strategy and expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told Xinhua in an interview.

Assad paid a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday, his first known overseas trip since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in 2011, during which he talked with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about the situation in Syria and joint military operation, according to the Kremlin.

Putin said that to support the political settlement in Syria, Russia was ready to cooperate with other world powers and countries in the region that were interested in a peaceful solution to the Syrian conflict.

“Russia has proposed to proceed in a universally accepted way. If we want a political settlement to materialize, all interested parties should sit down at the negotiation table, including those who have different views,” Kurtov said.

Moscow has sent a clear signal to the United States that only by means of negotiations instead of military power could a settlement be reached, he said.

The United States and its allies insist that Assad should be excluded from the process of political settlement in Syria, which Russia strongly opposes. Washington therefore has repeatedly said that it would only cooperate with Moscow on technical issues.

Washington has so far signed a memorandum of understanding with Moscow on safe flight operations over Syria.

Kurtov believed that an immediate agreement between Washington and Moscow will not be reached, as the presidential election campaign is gaining momentum in the United States.

He said both Republican and Democratic candidates have been actively exploring the idea that the United States should keep dictating its will to all other countries in the world, as it has been doing since the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s.

“However, in the Middle East, there will inevitably be some cooperation with Russia. Otherwise risks of military clashes between Russia and the so-called Western coalition will increase,” the expert said.

Kurtov did not expect a major breakthrough in the talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Top diplomats of Saudi Arabia and Turkey will also attend the talks which are scheduled for Friday in Vienna.

“The talks will be about coordinating the steps of different parties to eliminate militant groups of radical Islamists, primarily, those of the Islamic State, but we cannot expect details of future political reforms to be achieved,” the expert said.

Kurtov believed that talks about political reforms in Syria could start only with peace, favorable conditions for elections and the return of millions of refugees.

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