Facing down ISIS threat in Syria together

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
President Vladimir Putin to face journalists at a press conference following the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, November 16, 2015. © Michael Klimentyev
ISIS established a bridgehead in Syria and other countries of the Middle East. The terrorists do not conceal their far-reaching plans for further expansion, destabilization of more countries in the region and beyond, recruiting more people from all over the world, including Russia and our neighbors, to fight for their cause.

This article was first published by RBTH

To pre-empt this threat to national security, as a measure of self-defense, Russia launched its military operation in Syria. It was done in response to the Syrian Government's request and, thus, is fully in line with international law.

There is a way for everybody to carry out airstrikes against ISIS and other terrorists in Syria legitimately. It means a UN Security Council mandate. Besides establishing clear-cut objectives and terms of such collective intervention we could agree, in this resolution, realistic and flexible enough modalities of a political settlement in Syria.

Political settlement was one of key topics at the recent talks between President V.Putin and President B.Assad in Moscow. Sergey Lavrov met John Kerry and their Saudi and Turkish counterparts in Vienna for the same reason.

I am sure that, thus, there will be all the conditions in place for us to have a common view of the situation and make joint efforts on that basis. It would drastically change the terrorists' calculus while doing the same to our bilateral relationship with Britain.

We have requested our Western partners to provide us with their intelligence on terrorist infrastructure in Syria, if they really think that we strike at the wrong targets. We have also requested contact numbers of the Free Syrian Army. The negative response betrays the lack of clarity as to who is who on the ground and who does what sponsoring various groups opposing Damascus.

Preservation of secular statehood both in Syria and Egypt is absolutely key, because of their centrality to the regional stability. Partitioning Syria would be the worst development. Regional crises require regional solutions with all the players participating. It is true for Syria, as it is true for Afghanistan.

© Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation

It means that regional security is indivisible. Various regional players’ attempts to play games of their own will bring about an implosion of the entire Middle East, very much to the satisfaction of terrorists, who recognize no borders. Hopefully now, that many things in the situation are clear enough, we'll see the last of the tactics of ensuring one's own security at somebody else’s expense. Chickens do come home to roost.

Our partners didn't want to relieve the Syrian army by degrading the terrorists' capability. But now we know the outcome of this, to put it mildly, ambivalence. Politics and statecraft are always about making hard choices. Trying to avoid it equals abdication of responsibility. Initial results of our strikes prove that the terrorists took their impunity for granted. Things are changing now. The healthy competition between two coalitions is doing its bit.

Nobody wants to deploy ground forces in Syria. Then why not let the Syrian army play this part. If not them then who? It is no time to engage in fantasies of regime change in Syria.

And, finally, Russia, indeed, stepped in the line of fire. Those on the sidelines engage in ill-wishing, foretelling casualties and quagmire. It was not an easy decision for us to make but inaction was not an option. The broad public opinion seems to share this view.

Still, we are ready to discuss anything honestly and on the basis of facts with the capitals concerned. Neither 'great games', no cold-war geopolitics will help us deal with this threat to international security. It is a common threat and it must be addressed collectively. As President V.Putin emphasized, speaking at the Valdai meeting, we want to work together with everybody on Syria.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.