On Monday, Russia surprised the international community with the announcement that it is to begin the partial withdrawal of its troops from Syria.
Moscow’s forces had been providing military support to President Bashar al-Assad’s Damascus-based government.
Moscow says the withdrawal is possible as yesterday’s re-start of the Syrian peace talks in Geneva means Russia has achieved its objectives.
Analysts say Russian intervention has tipped the balance of power in the conflict in favour of the Assad government.
What concrete difference is this likely to make to the peace talks in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the conflict, which is five years old this week?
Faiza Garah, euronews:
“Before the peace negotiations the opposition demanded a period of transition and the eventual departure of President Bashar al Assad, will these demands result in the failure of the talks?”
Bachar Al-Jaafari, Head of Syrian government delegation at the Geneva peace talks:
“When you talk about the opposition do they represent all opposition? When the opposition come together and make demands then we can maybe accept them.
All opposition groups do not make these demands. To set conditions before talks destroys the chance of dialogue and ensures the failure of the talks. Secondly, they are using a Western agenda because the requirement that President Assad must leave office comes from outside.”
“You say opposition demands come from outside, can you be more specific, which outside?”
“Our country is for Syrians, neither I nor anyone else has the right to give away parts of the country to another country.
There are some who play the Turkish game by demanding an exclusion zone in the north. They made the game, the Turks. The Muslim Brotherhood are doing the same, playing the Qatar game.’‘
“Who is behind the opposition or ‘terrorists’ as you call them?”
The concept of “takfiri” is directly linked to Wahhabism and Saudi Arabia alone. They treat others as criminals.That is why we accuse the Gulf States of shedding Syrian blood. It is because they provide the foundation for this philosphy. That is why we see people beheaded. The philosphy of Daesh is Wahhabism, the amputation of hands, arms, heads by the sword is a Wahhabi tradition in Saudi Arabia.
These groups are on the list of terrorist organisations yet they are state funded. It is not a secret that Turkey finances Daesh and facilitates the movement of its people into Syria.
“It is no longer a secret that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are funding the Al Nousra Front. They pay the bills for training and arming them. It is not just Syria that says it, the security council agrees.”
‘‘How do you see the future of the Syrian crisis?”
“We are proud of our national independence and we reject interference from outside. Our only enemy is Israel, it is not just because it is Israel, but because Israel occupies Arab territories and our beloved homeland the Golan Heights.’‘
“How has the recent truce helped in the distribution of humanitarian aid.”
“The Syrian government provides 75% of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. All the conferences held in London, Rome and Paris are simply facades, the funds are for other things, they are not there to help Syrians inside Syria or the Syrian refugees.’‘
“What should Europe do about the Syrian crisis in your opinion?”
“Firstly it must stop interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. Secondly it must lift the sanctions imposed on the Syrian people.
Thirdly reopen embassies in Damascus to witness, first hand what is going on and not rely on opposition sources for their information. Europe is guilty of many strategic mistakes.”