Assad says Russian action key to stability

Updated: 2015-10-06 08:29

By Agencies in Ankara, Turkey, Andmoscow(China Daily)

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Syrian president says terrorist forces must be crushed before political process begins, accuses West of fueling refugee crisis

Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the only alternative to the success of the ongoing Russian air campaign against terrorists in his country is the destruction of the entire Middle East region, stressing that the fight against terrorism must precede a political process.

In an interview with Iran's Khabar TV, Assad also accused Western nations of fueling the refugee crisis and said the US-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group will only spark more instability in his country and the region.

These were Assad's first comments since Russia launched its air campaign against multiple armed groups in Syria on Wednesday. While the IS controls large swaths of eastern Syria, the Russian attacks have largely focused on the northwestern and central provinces - the gateways to the heartland of the Syrian government's power in the capital and on the Mediterranean coast. Russia's only naval base outside of its territories is also located on the coast, in the Syrian city of Tartus.

Russian volunteers are likely to travel to Syria to fight alongside government forces, Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the Russian parliament's defense committee, said on Monday.

"It is likely that groups of Russian volunteers will appear in the ranks of the Syrian army as combat participants," Komoyedov told the Interfax-AVN news agency.

The Kremlin has said that Russia has no current plans to deploy ground troops in Syria and will confine itself to conducting air strikes to support the Syrian army instead. It has not yet offered a view on the possibility of Russian volunteers fighting in Syria.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday that airstrikes in Syria must target all groups "considered as terrorists", including the Islamic State.

Fabius said a statement by President Francois Hollande on Friday that Russian air strikes must target "Daesh and only Daesh (the Arabic acronym for IS)", did not exclude other groups like the Al-Nusra Front.

"Of course, it is a concise formulation, it is Daesh and groups considered as terrorists," Fabius told Europe 1 radio in an interview, referring to Hollande's statement.

Fabius warned of the risk that the Syrian conflict could turn into a wider religious war.

"When you see a conflict which at first was a civil war, becoming a regional war involving international powers, Russia, Iran, the US, the risks are serious," he said.

Turkish claim

Meanwhile, Turkey said on Monday its F-16 jets had at the weekend intercepted a Russian fighter plane which violated Turkish air space near the Syrian border, forcing the aircraft to turn back.

Turkey summoned the Russian ambassador in Ankara to the Foreign Ministry and "strongly protested" the violation, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It demanded that "any such violation not be repeated", otherwise Russia "will be responsible for any undesired incident that may occur".

The Russian jet infringed Turkish airspace at 12:08 pm on Saturday south of the Yayladagi region in Turkey's southern Hatay province, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.

"The Russian aircraft exited Turkish airspace into Syria after it was intercepted by two F-16s from the Turkish Air Force, which were conducting patrols in the region," it added.

The Russian Defense Ministry says Russian jets have made 25 sorties against Islamic State group positions in Syria in the past 24 hours.

The ministry said on Monday the airstrikes on Sunday and overnight hit nine facilities reportedly belonging to the IS, destroying a command center, ammunition depots and artillery. All are located in the north and the northwest of the country.

The Sukhoi Su-24M bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces have made an airstrike on a communications center of the IS militants in the Syrian province of Homs and destroyed a command post of the militants in the vicinity of Al-Rastan, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Monday.

"The building that housed the communications center was destroyed as a result of a direct hit. The communications reconnaissance data have confirmed its destruction," he was quoted by Tass news agency as saying.

On Sunday, a suicide attack in the center of Homs city, controlled by the government, killed one person and injured 18 others, Syrian TV said.

Assad says Russian action key to stability

(China Daily 10/06/2015 page4)