The current hotspot of the Syrian crisis – Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus – is being used by numerous terrorist groups as a base, from which they launch attacks on the capital and other areas in the country, Putin said, responding to a Russian media journalist’s question on the situation there. Damascus is being shelled up to 80 times a day from the besieged area.
Putin particularly stressed that the Russian embassy in Damascus has come under mortar fire. The building has been shelled and suffered damage on numerous occasions during the Syrian conflict. On February 6, the Russian trade mission in the Syrian capital was also targeted. Luckily, the building was unoccupied, but civilians were injured in the attack.
“It’s well-known – at least, we know this well in Russia – that shells land even on the territory of the Russian embassy and trade mission. Are we going to tolerate this forever?” the president wondered.
Kurz urged Russia to influence the Syrian government and the situation in the country in order to facilitate a diplomatic resolution of the conflict.
“I appeal to Russia, as it has influence there [in Syria] and has a responsibility. Being a superpower, it can influence the regime [of President Bashar Assad], the situation in Syria. Therefore, we hope that everyone will return to the negotiating table and swiftly stop this war,” Kurz said.
“The situation is difficult [in Syria], the prospects of the peaceful settlement depend on the warring parties – on their internal desire to achieve this settlement and preserve the territorial integrity and unity of their country,” Putin said, adding that “the influence of regional countries and key international players is very important.”
According to the Russian leader, Moscow will “strive to establish political dialogue” and ensure the beginning of the work on the new Syrian constitution. Russia will also work to turn the de-escalation zones in Syria into “areas of cooperation between Damascus and the opposition,” he added.
The Ukrainian issue was also discussed during the talks, with Putin reiterating that Moscow wouldn’t object to the deployment of international peacekeepers in the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The President also said that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will connect Germany and Russia via the Baltic Sea, is “an absolutely depoliticized” project. He said the pipeline isn’t viewed as “an alternative to the Ukrainian transit route,” adding that Moscow is ready to continue co-operation with Kiev in this area. According to Kurz, Austria has “a positive approach to the [Nord Stream 2] project as well as Germany and other states,” but a lot of details have yet to be worked out.
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