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    The silhouette of a Syrian man is seen through an election campaign portrait of President Bashar al-Assad he hangs it on a billboard on May 11, 2014 in the capital Damascus.

    Russian Deputy FM Rules Out Discussing Assad's Future With US

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    Russia will not discuss with the United States the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad, this is an issue for the people of Syria, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Wednesday.

    GENEVA (Sputnik) – Russian officials have repeatedly said that Assad's future should be decided only by the Syrian people and warned against foreign interference in the internal issue of the country.

    "Assad’s future is an issue for the Syrian people. We do not intend to discuss it with the US side," Gatilov said.

    The delegation of the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee to the Geneva intra-Syria talks clarified at a meeting with the Russian delegation that Assad's resignation was a political directive for the future rather than a precondition for settlement talks, Gatilov said.

    "We slightly touched upon the question of Assad's departure during our talks with the HNC, it was said on our part that we did not accept any preconditions," Gatilov told journalists.

    "We were told directly that this was not a precondition but a political directive for the future and that it was in no way connected to the desire and intention of the HNC to participate in the negotiation process," he explained.

    Russia would like to see the United States playing a more active role in the search for ways to resolve the crisis in Syria, the diplomat said.

    "We are calling for a more active participation of the US side in the process of finding ways to resolve the Syrian crisis … It is hard to expect process in this direction without the participation of the US side," Gatilov told reporters.

    He confirmed that the visit of US State Secretary Rex Tillerson to Moscow was being prepared.

    "It is clear that the Syrian topic is one of the main issues for negotiations," the Russian official added.

    Russia is meeting all of its obligations as a guarantor of the Syria ceasefire regime, Gatilov said.

    "We have channels to exchange information between Russia and Turkey. The Iranian side is ready to join this."

    Russia assesses positively Turkey’s role in the Syria reconciliation process, much depends on Ankara, he added.

    The fresh round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva is proceeding with difficulty and the sides are at odds over its agenda, Gatilov said.

    "This round is not going easily despite the fact that its four-point agenda was agreed on last week. There are certain differences among the delegations on the order in which these points should be addressed," Gatilov told reporters.

    "At the moment there are situations when they are mixed up, and this mishmash between terrorists and those who are ready to continue political process creates certain difficulties," Gatilov told journalists.

    He added that Russia would "positively assess" the separation between terrorists and those ready to join the Syrian ceasefire as "it would help to determine the target of the operation."

    Moscow considers all the four points to be equally important and stressed that they should all be addressed with the due attention, he added.

    "It is too early to talk about any sort of results reached in this round. I feel that the sides want to continue talks. The direction they head in depends on UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura."

    UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura intends to hold another round of the intra-Syria talks, but dates have not been chosen yet, Gatilov said.

    "Judging by our contacts with de Mistura, he intends to hold another meeting on Syria. I do not know when it will happen," Gatilov told reporters.

    Gatilov said that he wanted to hold one more meeting with the Syrian government's delegation in Geneva following their talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura.

    "Almost immediately after this meeting we will have one more meeting with the Syrian government's delegation. We want to exchange our opinions about our prospects for the coming day or two days."

    The fifth round of Geneva talks on Syrian settlement kicked off in Geneva on March 24. On Tuesday, Gatilov already met with the delegation of the Syrian government.


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