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Moscow Rejects ‘Contact Group’ on Syria | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian pro-regime forces gather on a road in Bir Qabaqib, more than 40 kilometers west of Deir Ezzor on Sept 4, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Moscow, Beirut- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stressed “the importance of spurring up the operation of all mechanisms on Syria to make them more efficient,” a position seen as a rejection of the French-initiated Contact Group on Syria.

Lavrov, who according to his ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova is planning to visit Saudi Arabia and Jordan between September 9 and 11, spoke during a meeting with his French counterpart in Moscow about the Geneva format, which he said “has accumulated critical mass to make it possible to establish, before long, a dialogue between the Syrian regime and the opposition based on the agreement on the de-escalation zones.”

The Russian minister said that much help comes from regional partners, “especially Saudi Arabia that came up with an initiative to unite Syrian opposition groups, namely the so-called High Negotiations Committee, the Moscow and the Cairo platforms.”

In mid-July, French President Emmanuel Macron said at a meeting with US President Donald Trump that Paris and Washington suggest establishing an international Contact Group that will forward after-war settlement in Syria by supporting corresponding UN actions.

While a senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official told Reuters on Friday that US-backed Syrian militias are set to announce an operation against ISIS in the north of Deir Ezzor province to drive the militants out of Raqqa city and territory to its southeast, the Russian Defense Minister announced that 40 ISIS members, including four commanders, have been killed in a Russian air attack in Deir Ezzor.

Also on Friday, the International Coalition against ISIS said that its reconnaissance aircrafts have left the area where a convoy of 17 buses carrying ISIS militants and their families, who had been evacuated from the Qalamoun area, is currently present in the Syrian desert.

The US-led coalition said that its move came in line with a Russian request. The announcement came few hours after a US military official announced that 85 ISIS militants from the convoy were killed.