NATO front crumbles: Slovakia welcomes Russian intervention in Syria

From Fort Russ

Russian President Putin with Slovak Premier Fico in Moscow
Fico’s view: it is necessary to include Bashar al Assad to resolve the conflict in Syria

Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten
October 18, 2015
Translated from German by Tom Winter

The Russian intervention in Syria has now led to a rift in NATO with Slovakia becoming the first NATO country to side with the Russians. German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, meanwhile, tries to get Iran and Saudi Arabia to the table to promote a diplomatic solution.

But the Prime Minister of NATO member country Slovakia, Robert Fico, is not wedded to the Russian intervention in principle: “Whether an American attack or a Russian attack on ISIS targets is now successful, in either case it counts the same,” the Social Democrat said Saturday on Slovak Radio. He has no ideological blinkers. According to Fico’s view it is necessary to include longtime ruler Bashar al Assad to resolve the conflict in the country.

Russia continued its airstrikes against ISIS through the weekend. “First, we are defending our national interests, and second, we have the approval of the local leadership,” said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with Russian state television.

Medvedev also slightly distanced himself from President Assad: “He is the legitimate president, but we aren’t fighting there for a particular politician. Who leads Syria — the people should decide,” he said in the interview broadcast on Saturday.

The Russians have already said at the beginning of their military strikes that they do not intendf to support Assad no matter what. However, they reject the overthrow of an elected head of state by military force from outside, as a breach of International Law.

According to the Defense Ministry in Moscow the Russian Air Force flew about 40 new attacks in Syria in 24 hours. “…in which 49 terrorist targets were destroyed,” said Major General Igor Konaschenkov.

The terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) have changed their tactics because of the bombing and are now having to decentralize ammunition dumps and command posts. The fighter jets discovered and destroyed several positions anyway, said Konaschenkov.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Iran to cooperate in the efforts to end the war in Syria. “My desire is that Iran use its influence on the government, and on Assad and his circle so we can take the first steps towards a de-escalation in Syria,” Steinmeier said on Saturday during a visit to Tehran.

All attempts to move Iran, along with other regional powers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to Syrian peace talks, so far have been fruitless. On Sunday, Steinmeier will travel to Saudi Arabia, the main opponent of Iran in the region. At the same time German Chancellor Angela Merkel travels to Turkey.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif showed himself to be open, in principle, to participation in the search for a peaceful solution for Syria. His country was ready for a “constructive role” and also to hold talks with all its neighbors.

Steinmeier appealed to both to overcome the previous lack of discussion: “Every player in the region has a responsibility that goes beyond the national interest. This responsibility is more important than ambition and national pride. “

With a view to Iran’s role in Syria Steinmeier said: “It’s no secret that our position is not congruent in all respects. But we have a common interest in ensuring that the killing comes to an end and that Syria will remain as a state.” Zarif said that when it comes to Assad’s future, in the past we have focused too much on the fate of individuals. It would be better to take care of the preservation of the state institutions. “The people in Syria will decide who will be there at the beginning and who at the end.”

Your translator cannot resist a comment on Steinmeier’s assertion that Syria remain as a state: unlike some governments, Germany is thinking ahead realizing what will happen if the “rebels” win.

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