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    Russian Air Operation Helped Preserve Syria's Unity - Parliament Speaker

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    The launch of peace process creates a chance to maintain Syria's integrity, according to senior Russian official.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia's anti-terrorist air operation helped preserve Syria's unity, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko said.

    "Russia's mission has largely been fulfilled. Overall, the ceasefire is being respected, the peace process has been launched, a discussion on Syria's future constitution has begun. All this creates prerequisites to keep Syria a single, unified state in order to implement urgent political reforms," Matvienko told RIA Novosti.

    The Syrians have a real opportunity to absolutely independently shape their future in a peaceful way by the adoption of the constitution, holding free parliamentary and presidential elections in the country, the speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament stressed.

    The successful actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces prevented the disintegration of Syria as a state and "dramatically" changed the situation in the Arab republic, Matvienko noted, adding that these achievements would not have been possible without close coordination with the Syrian army and the patriotic opposition.

    Moreover, the Russian air group has seriously weakened Daesh and other militants’ resource supply, destroying most of their weapon depots and terrorists themselves.

    "Including, those [militants] originating from the former Soviet Union, Russia. In this way we have secured ourselves from their possible return, consecutive terrorist attacks and other threats. This is extremely important," she emphasized.

    Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad's government fighting numerous opposition factions and extremist groups.

    On February 22, Russia and the United States reached an agreement on a ceasefire in Syria, which took effect on February 27.

    Moscow has been conducting a military operation against terrorists in Syria since September 30 at its president's request.

    On March 14, President Vladimir Putin ordered the Defense Ministry to start withdrawing the Russian air group from Syria.

    "There is one issue that the West prefers to remain silent about. I am not prone to excessive patriotism, which makes it even more pleasant to state that our participation in the Syria events has confirmed Russia's role as a world power without which it is impossible to solve any major international problems," Matvienko added.

    She added that she frequently talked with her foreign counterparts, the vast majority of whom shared the opinion that Russia played a key role in ending the war and establishing peace process in Syria.

    "The understanding of this is growing as well as awareness that all attempts to isolate Russia from the international community, to harm our national interests, hinder the development of the country are failing," Matvienko highlighted.

    Speaking about the future of President Bashar Assad, the politician emphasized only Syrians could determine his fate.

    "It is not up to us to discuss the fate of Bashar Assad. His fate is in the hands of the Syrian People."

    Moscow should help Damascus in creating the necessary conditions for holding the elections in Syria, the speaker of the Russian upper house outlined.

    Russia is one of the co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) consisting of global and regional powers and organizations that brokered intra-Syria talks.

    The latest round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces opened on March 14 in Geneva wrapped up on Thursday and is due to resume around April 10.

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    The Syrian war, Bashar al-Assad, Valentina Matvienko, Syria, Russia
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