Lavrov, SANA – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that the Syrian army is the most effective force on the ground in fighting terrorism.

The international coalition against the terrorist organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will not be effective with Syria not being part of it, said Lavrov in a speech addressing the students and teachers of Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Tuesday.

He dismissed the calls for President Bashar al-Assad’s departure as a precondition for embarking on the fight against terrorism as “harmful” and “unrealistic”, calling for them to be stopped.

“President al-Assad who was elected by his people is still a completely legitimate president regardless of the Western statements,” said Lavrov.

He criticized the international community over this issue, saying they have contradicted themselves when two years ago they dealt with the Syrian leadership as being a legitimate leadership as far as the chemical weapons were concerned, while they now refrain from coordinating with the Syrian government when it comes to ISIS, whereas they do coordinate with the Iraqi government in this regard.

He referred to the Russian President’s initiative on unifying the efforts of all the sides against ISIS and the other terrorist organizations, noting that Russia made it clear to all the countries that are aware of the ISIS threat that they should coordinate with the Syrian army towards more effectiveness in fighting terrorism.

This, Lavrov said, requires that all forces be unified and all other matters be put on the shelf for some time later.

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“We look at the reactions of the Western and Gulf states and other countries and we see some there who are getting it,” he added.

Lavrov referred to his meeting yesterday with a delegation of the “Syrian opposition”, saying Russia seeks to unify “the opposition” with the aim to work with the Syrian government to find a form to build a future Syria.

This issue, he said, is stated in Geneva 1 document, noting that a lot of countries have started to realize that work should be in that direction in order to come to sitting down at the dialogue table.

On a relevant note, Lavrov condemned ISIS destruction of the historical temples in the ancient Syrian Palmyra city and the ruins in Iraq, dismissing these acts as aimed at shaking the base of the common human culture.

In this light, Lavrov said, the task of protecting cultural heritage is getting more urgent, calling for taking steps to come up with a firm stand by the international community against ISIS.

Lavrov announced in the course of his speech that there will be a ministerial meeting at the Security Council at the end of September to discuss international security and the terror threats in the Middle East and North Africa.

H. Said

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