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US withdrawal from Syria positive but questions remain: Russian foreign ministry

Updated: 2018-12-27 00:22

MOSCOW, Dec. 26 -- Russia salutes the US troops' withdrawal from Syria, announced by the US administration last week, but still has questions related to the process, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

"We understand the importance of this decision, which, in our assessment, is aimed at contributing to a comprehensive settlement of the situation," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a news briefing.

"But we do not fully understand all reasons and motives of this step," she said.

The administration of US President Donald Trump announced last Wednesday that it has started returning US troops from Syria after claiming a victory in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).

Zakharova said as there is no clarity about the timetable of the withdrawal, the ministry has therefore to rely on media reports that the troops may pull out of northeastern Syria, and of the al-Tanf region in the south of the country within two or three months.

Zakharova said that official US spokespersons have hinted that the withdrawal of troops from Syrian territory does not signify the end of the activities of the US-led international coalition, which aims to put an end to IS terrorists.

Therefore, it is not clear if the United States may conduct air strikes and limited ground operations from bases located in neighboring countries, Zakharova said.

A fundamental question is about who will control the territories abandoned by the US troops, she said.

Zakharova also said Moscow believes that it should be the Syrian government. But so far Russia had no information about any contacts between Washington and Damascus on this issue.

Zakharova said that the Syrian government has everything necessary to guarantee stability on the basis of a dialogue and interaction with all national patriotic forces in the interest of all Syrians, which would without any doubt suffice to destroy the terrorists and exclude their re-emergence on Syrian soil.

All positive changes in Syria may be long term only if they are reinforced by substantial progress in the political settlement based on the respect for unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of that country, she added.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the establishment of the Syrian constitutional committee is reaching the final phase and that the actual political settlement in the country could start next year.

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