KHMEIMIM AIR BASE, March 5. /TASS/. The leaders of Syria’s opposition who signed ceasefire agreements are asking Russia’s Defense Ministry to protect them from militants of the Islamic State terrorist group (IS – outlawed in Russia) and the defense ministry is ready to provide them needed help, Head of the Russian truce center in Syria Lieutenant General Sergey Kuralenko told reporters on Saturday.
In the first days of the center’s work, opposition leaders asked Russia for security guarantees and protection from Syrian governmental bodies as a crucial condition for the truce. But in recent days the situation changed drastically, the general said.
“They are asking us to provide their security and defend them from militants of the ISIS group and other terrorist organizations announcing a manhunt for the opposition figures who had signed ceasefire agreements,” Kuralenko said.
“From our part, we will help ensure security of the leaders of the Syrian opposition units and heads of local administrations who signed agreements to end fighting and to start the reconciliation process,” he said.
Kuralenko said that by Saturday specialists of the Russian center in Latakia had held 23 meetings with representatives of different opposition groups and political forces.
“During even this short period of time we have noticed drastic changes in the process of the talks,” the Russian general added.
On February 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama adopted a joint statement on the cessation of hostilities in Syria on February 27, obliging both sides to influence different political forces in the country to achieve a ceasefire.
The statement points out that the cessation of hostilities is to be applied to all parties to the Syrian conflict but for Daesh (the Arabic acronym for Islamic State) and Jabhat al-Nusra (both are banned in Russia) “or other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.” The strikes on these groups will be continued.
On February 23, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the creation of a coordination center at the Russian Khmeimim air base with the aim to reconcile the warring sides within Syria. The center was set up in line with agreements reached by Russia and the United States to facilitate the negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition and to organize humanitarian deliveries.