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Medvedev 'cautiously optimistic' about a solution to Syria conflict

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has declared himself "cautiously optimistic" about a solution to the conflict in Syria. Military cooperation remains critical, he said. Otherwise, people will continue to die.

The prime minister said US Secretary of State John Kerry had met with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and leaders of different countries at the Munich Security Conference to discuss solutions to Syria's civil war. "They agreed on what should be done in the short run," Dmitry Medvedev told Euronews, adding that "for this reason, I'm cautiously optimistic about the prospects for cooperation on this issue."

Medvedev said such a close exchange was imperative: Otherwise there would be no end to the war in Syria, people would keep dying, and the number of refugees fleeing to Europe would continue.

In his conversation with Euronews host Isabelle Kumar, Medvedev said Russia's foremost reason for intervening in Syria was to protect its national interests. "There are many fighters in Syria who can go to Russia in any time and commit terrorist attacks there," he said. "There are thousands of them in Syria."

Medvedev said Russia had received a request from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to help end the conflict, which gave Moscow a legal basis to intervene.

'Full-fledged, long war'

Medvedev also criticized US Secretary of State Kerry for saying his country would go ahead with a ground operation even if Russia and Iran refused to cooperate. "These are futile words, he should not have said that for a simple reason: if all he wants is a protracted war, he can carry out ground operations and anything else. But don't try to frighten anyone," Medvedev said, adding that no one was interested in a new war and "a ground operation is a full-fledged, long war."

The prime minister called for a common solution and said Russia, the EU and the United States needed to "focus on facilitating the launch" of Syria's peace process.

Medvedev raised hackles during the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, when he said the world had "slid into a new period of Cold War." "Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago, when a wall was standing in Europe," he said in Munich on Saturday.

In an interview with the German newspaper Handelsblatt last week, Medvedev said there was a danger of Syria's conflict becoming a "permanent war."

mg/jlw (dpa, Reuters)

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