Russian Chief of Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, said the elimination of Al-Nusra Front terrorist group in Syria would be completed in 2018.
In an interview published on Wednesday with the Komsomolskaya Pravda, Gerasimov said that Russia’s 2018 priorities in Syria would include political settlement to the crisis and “the completion of eliminating militants from Nusra and its affiliates.”
“Some members of this terrorist organization operate in de-escalation zones,” he said. “Jabhat Nusra fiercely opposes the ceasefire. Therefore, they must be eliminated,” he added.
Other major tasks for the coming year include, according to Gerasimov, political settlement in the country and preparations for the upcoming Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Syrian army and its allies have been pushing al-Nusra members out of the country with Russian support.
“However, they are still resisting, in particular, as far as we know, because they have been receiving assistance from abroad,” he added.
During a meeting with leader of Syria’s Tomorrow opposition movement Ahmad Jarba on Wednesday, Lavrov stressed that the Russian air force would return and provide assistance to the Syrian regime forces in the event of deterioration of the situation, pointing out that this would be under government agreements between the two countries.
The Russian foreign minister also touched on the objectives of the upcoming Syrian Dialogue Conference, which will be held at the end of January in Sochi.
“Our goal is to lay the basis for the widest possible representation for launching the constitutional reform, create the conditions which must be agreed on by the Syrians themselves, and, in this sense, implement the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” Lavrov said.
For his part, Jarba expressed his concern about the humanitarian conditions in the eastern region of Al-Ghouta and hoped that Russia would make efforts to improve the situation there.
“There are serious human tragedies, and we hope that Russia will intervene to bring things back to normal,” he stated.