Russia advocates broader UN presence in Syria

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Moscow, April 21 (IANS) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said building up the presence of the United Nations (UN) in Syria deserves attention as it will help collect reliable information.

Russia cannot accept the situation that UN agencies produce reports and statements based on information from other sources than UN’s own ones, he said at a joint press conference on Friday following talks with visiting UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Xinhua reported.

Lavrov criticised the US-led missile strikes on Syria last week as they undermined the Geneva talks for the Syrian settlement under the auspices of the UN at a time when Russia, Turkey and Iran very closely approached the resumption of the Geneva process.

He asked the UN to step up humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and help with the reconstruction of housing, infrastructure and facilities of the war-torn country’s national economy.

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De Mistura said at the press conference he was pleased that Russia remains committed to pushing for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis.

He said the deconfliction mechanism between Russian and the US forces in Syria has been effective and should continue.

De Mistura expressed the hope that experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will visit Douma district near the Syrian capital of Damascus as soon as possible to investigate an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian government forces.

The US, Britain and France launched intensive missile attacks on Syria on April 14, saying the move was in response to the alleged chemical weapon attack.

Damascus denied the accusation and Russia said its military experts found no traces of toxic substances in Douma.

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The OPCW experts are now in Syria for the investigation, but so far they have not visited Douma.

Western countries accused Russia of hindering the OPCW investigation, while Moscow said that the experts cannot enter the area due to a lack of the UN’s permission over safety concerns following the US-led strikes.

–IANS

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