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PRESS RELEASES AND NEWS

28.12.2016

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, December 27, 2016

The year’s foreign policy outcomes

 

Today the official Foreign Ministry website will publish extensive and comprehensive content on the main foreign policy results of the outgoing year. Considering the large format and scale of this material, I will not announce it here, but you will have an opportunity to read it on our department’s official website.

It will be possible to receive a more detailed coverage and ask questions at a special news conference with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, which will be held, by tradition, in January 2017 (most likely after the first ten days in January). We will announce accreditation in advance but I already invite you to attend it.

 

Developments in Syria

 

We are pleased to note positive changes in the military-political developments in Syria.

On December 22, Syrian Government troops occupied the districts of east Aleppo, which were controlled by illegal armed units and from which militants were cleared. The Syrian command announced the restoration of security and stability in the city and its full liberation from extremists. We view Aleppo’s liberation from criminal gangs as a major stage on the way to stabilising Syria, while preserving its unity and territorial integrity and preventing the degradation of its state institutions.

Although the militants left many ruins in their wake, left behind weapons and ammunition and mined many buildings and key facilities of the city’s infrastructure, peaceful life in gradually being restored in Aleppo. Russian soldiers are helping the local population to do this. Military engineers from the International Mine Action Centre of the Russian Armed Forces cleared up mines and explosives on several dozen hectares of urban territory. A military police battalion transferred from Russia was immediately deployed in Aleppo. It will carry out various tasks as part of the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria. One of its tasks will be to ensure the security of Russian service members, personnel of mobile hospitals and humanitarian convoys.

Celebrating the city’s full liberation, its residents went into the streets of Aleppo. They congratulated one another on the victory. Many people carried Syrian and Russian flags and thanked Russian and Syrian service members. But to use an expression we all know well, this is a holiday with tears in the eyes.

We are learning more and more details about the city’s life under terrorists and extremists. Mass graves containing many dozens of people were discovered in Aleppo. It turns out these people had been tortured and brutally murdered. Regrettably, there are grounds to believe that more terrible discoveries lie ahead. In the near future, Russian soldiers will give the media evidence of war crimes committed by terrorists in Syria, which will receive wide media coverage. We hope that the international community will ultimately give a proper assessment of the mayhem of violence and the bullying of Syrians by bandits and terrorists.

 

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s remarks on Syria

 

We have taken note of a very strange statement by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, although at this point perhaps nothing should come as a surprise to us anymore. He said that UN representatives should not be allowed into eastern Aleppo, adding that this is unacceptable. The [Syrian] regime and those who support it should immediately comply with their obligations, and with UN Security Council Resolution 2328, to ensure that all civilians are protected. He went on to say that the Syrian army’s control over Aleppo does not mean a complete victory, as Bashar Assad is extremely dependent on foreign armed groups and Russian air support, and has also caused large-scale destruction in the country, including atrocities, and so on. It was a wide-ranging statement.

I understand very well and am aware of the fact that UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is not a career diplomat. But not to such an extent!

We will not comment on these passages – which, in my view, have already become “antiquated” – to the effect that “Bashar Assad must go.” If Boris Johnson is not aware, only the most rabid opposition, extremists and militants are continuing to talk about that. His colleagues have long changed their vocabulary on the issue.

I would like to set the record straight on humanitarian monitoring in Aleppo, including in the context of the recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2328 on the issue. Judging by the statements made by our British colleague, he has no idea whatsoever about what is going on there. However, that is hardly surprising if one is only guided by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Even before the resolution was adopted, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Syrian Red Crescent and the World Health Organisation were instrumental in providing direct humanitarian assistance to the people of Aleppo. ICRC personnel also monitored and accompanied the evacuation from eastern Aleppo. At the same time we have repeatedly spoken in favour of UN agencies’ involvement in these efforts. Corresponding agencies became involved in the effort on December 15. As of right now, there are over 100 UN officers, with more than 30 acting directly in the eastern part of the city, which was freed from extremists. More personnel are expected to be sent there. It is strange that Mr Johnson does not know about that, or pretends not to know.

As such, we note that UN Security Council Resolution 2328 is a “suprastructure” to the ongoing work, which is, on the whole, being successfully conducted by international aid agencies.

 

On Bulgarian-made military goods in Syria

 

Our European colleagues regularly attempt to make Russia accountable for inciting the civil war in Syria and for the humanitarian situation. I have just quoted a statement by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. We constantly hear claims and accusations that are devoid of substance, context or any evidence. They take absolutely no trouble to try to search for, collect and analyse any facts. Of course, this is in vain, as once you read the press that, by the way, some of them cite, then many things become clear. 

For example, I discovered an article in a central Bulgarian newspaper, Trud, from December 12, which reports about Bulgarian military ammunition found in a rebel munitions depot in one of the liberated districts of Aleppo. And the report is about serious munitions, and in large quantities. In particular, dozens of cases were found containing 122 mm missiles for the Grad multiple missile launcher, 73 mm shells for anti-tank weapons and 40 mm mortars for portable anti-tank mortars. With reference to cover documents, the article names the producing and the exporting companies. Moreover, the Syrian army is reported to have found another eight depots abandoned by the terrorists, with 2 million munitions for heavy machine guns and 4,000 missiles for Bulgarian-made Grad multiple missile launchers.

All the above products are manufactured, as you understand, under expired Soviet licences that were given to Bulgaria. I would like to stress that Russia has been conducting negotiations with Sofia since the late 1990s on signing a bilateral agreement on licensing that would regulate, primarily, the export of military goods to third countries. Regretfully, the Bulgarian side is in no hurry to conclude the agreement. Apparently, the lack of regulation in this area suits some Bulgarian officials perfectly well.

Of course, this is a convenient position: selling to some country that does not use Russian military equipment and armaments, and the Bulgarian producers do not care where the middleman is going to sell their products. The issue is quite different, as this is not a matter of selling safety pins, it is about selling deadly goods that kill, among others, Syrian civilians, whose fate is of such great concern to  the European Union. This discrepancy is confounding. A great many questions arise in this respect. For example, in which other conflict zones could these illegally produced weapons land? As far as I understand, this question does not worry anyone other than us: neither Washington nor Brussels. 

This is not the only instance showing that the Western bloc countries, in fact, assist in stoking, extending and inciting the Syrian conflict. This is why I am calling on our Euro-Atlantic critics to speak less and to do more to take up measures on curbing supplies of weapons to terrorists. As to the loss of innocent life our partners are so fond of recalling, why don’t you immediately recall whose weapons kill them all? Here is an example for you. I know that everyone in the European Union nowadays is concerned about the spread of information, propaganda and fake news. Here is a particular article, and those structures can definitely check its credibility, speak with the author, look into the materials and dismiss or confirm it. Will you finally start taking care of business?

 

Developments in Mosul

 

It has been over two months since the operation to liberate Mosul from terrorists began. However, the situation is still far from being resolved. ISIS still controls the western, right bank part of the city, and about 20 per cent of its eastern, left bank part. They also control over half of the Nineveh Governorate, of which Mosul is the administrative centre.

Such state of affairs in no way derogates from the efforts by Iraqi forces, the Iraqi People’s Militia and the Kurdish units, which have done a lot to liberate Iraqi territories from ISIS. We welcome their further steps in this regard, difficult though they may be. We will provide further support to the friendly Iraq. It is important that this spot of international terrorism is exterminated in that long-suffering country.

At the same time, civilians cannot be treated as “collateral damage” in the context of this anti-terrorist operation. The number of victims in the air strikes and shellfire by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition is rapidly increasing.

The humanitarian situation is deteriorating. According to the Iraqi authorities, the number of civilians who fled besieged Mosul has reached 125,000. Their situation remains very serious, they are out in the open. The assistance provided by, among others, UN agencies, is clearly not enough. The forecasts seem even more dismal.

Amid the events in the north of Iraq, our western partners and the mass media they control continue to “smooth over” the representation of the events around Mosul. But concealing the actual state of affairs becomes more and more difficult day by day, given that the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo no longer gives cause to hold the full attention of the western public.

 

Developments in Lebanon

 

We are pleased to note positive developments in Lebanon. Despite the unstable situation in the region, the Lebanese have managed to overcome the more than two-year-long power vacuum crisis. Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s approval of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri has become a landmark event on this thorny path. This became possible due to the implementation of a package of agreements between major Lebanese political forces, which had worked out joint compromise solutions aimed at restoring and maintaining the activity of the executive power in Lebanon. As expected, this week Saad Hariri will address the parliament with a governmental statement, aiming to receive a vote of confidence.

Russia adheres to a coherent policy of supporting the Lebanese in their own solutions to the intra-Lebanese issues, developed through a dialogue and solely within the legal framework. We are certain that the efficient work of all state governance bodies will allow Lebanon to look to the future with confidence, counter all of today’s challenges and threats, and support peace and stability on the Lebanese territory.

We also reiterate our commitment to further supporting the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Lebanese Republic.

 

To be continued...

http://www.mid.ru/foreign_policy/news/-/asset_publisher/cKNonkJE02Bw/content/id/2581141?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw&_101_INSTANCE_cKNonkJE02Bw_languageId=en_GB

 




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