Dispelling rumors and clarifying positions, Lavrov spoke with the British channel 4 yesterday about Russia’s military plans for Syria. Putin recently announced the removal of several pieces of military hardware, and western press began to speculate whether the Russians were due to extract themselves from Syria soon.
“The withdrawal of the Russian military group from Syria depends on what is happening on the ground“, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in the interview with channel 4.
“We do not set artificial deadlines,” the minister stressed. “We reduced our military presence in Syria.” The last time it was a few days ago, what the President of Russia Vladimir Putin was talking about, more than a thousand servicemen returned home, some aviation equipment and other equipment were withdrawn. This (the withdrawal of the military grouping – note ed.) Depends on what is happening on the ground. “
According to him, Russia, together with the Syrian government army and the armed opposition that supported the ceasefire, does not allow the “Islamic State” to create a caliphate. Russia can reduce forces, in order for there to be room for a political process to take place. All sides agree that only a political process will see an end to the conflict in Syria.
“There are remains of ISIS, as well as” Jabat al-Nusra “. They are trying to prevent full implementation of the agreement on the southern zone of de-escalation,” Lavrov said. “We are not talking about full-fledged military presence, but our naval and air bases may remain for a while.“
Earlier on June 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that 13 aircraft, 14 helicopters and 1140 military personnel had been withdrawn from Syria in the past few days.
Historically, Russia reduces – or shows it can reduce – it’s military presence in Syria as a lead up towards talks. These are normally taken as a sign that Russia is willing to compromise and uses this move in general to show that it wants to move towards a normalization of affairs in the region, towards a permanent ceasefire.