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Russia warns of 'permanent war' in Syria

February 12, 2016

Russia's prime minister has warned that sending foreign ground troops to Syria could lead to decades of war. Citing failed military interventions around the globe, Medvedev said all sides should negotiate.

Russland Dmitri Medwedew Interview Staatsfernsehen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Guneev/Sputnik

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said all sides of the Syria conflict should sit down at the negotiating table and warned the introduction of Arab or US ground forces in the conflict would lead to permanent war.

"A ground operation draws everyone taking part in it into a war. The Americans must consider - both the US president and our Arab partners - whether or not they want a permanent war," Medvedev told the German newspaper "Handelsblatt" on Thursday as world powers gathered to discuss Syria on Thursday ahead of the annual Munich Security Conference.

"Handelsblatt" reported that Medvedev warned of the possibility of a "world war" if a diplomatic solution to the Syrian war could not be found. A Russian transcript of the interview, however, varied from the German newspaper, reporting that the prime minister said it could be the "start of yet another war in the world" if parties don't go to the negotiating table.

Russia has advisors in Syria as part of an ongoing air campaign to support the Assad regime but has ruled out deploying ground troops. Iranian forces and fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah are on the ground supporting the Syrian army.

Asked about statements from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that they would be willing to introduce ground troops, Medvedev said a ground operation would lead to "permanent war."

"Look at what is going on in Afghanistan and a number of other countries. I don't even mention the ill-fated Libya," Medvedev said, referring to Russian opposition to the Western and Arab military operation that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and turned the country into a failed state.

"Are they looking for a quick victory?" Medvedev asked. "This doesn't happen in reality, particularly in the Arab world."

Since intervening to support the Assad regime in September, which Medvedev pointed out was done at the invitation of the Syrian government, Russia has carried out thousands of airstrikes.

A regime offensive, backed by the Russian air force, against Aleppo city and the northern countryside over the past two weeks has dealt a blow to the armed Syrian opposition, cutting off a major supply route to Turkey and sending tens of thousands of refugees fleeing towards the border.

Karte russische Luftangriffe in Syrien

The offensive comes as world powers try to revive stalled peace talks between the Syrian regime and opposition, which collapsed as soon as they started last week.

Backers of the opposition have called on Russia to cease its bombing campaign.

Concerned over the Syrian regime's gains and the collapse of the rebels, Saudi Arabia has offered to intervene while Turkey continues to push for a safe zone inside Syria.

Diplomats are meeting on Thursday night in Munich to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire in Syria. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Syria needed a "breakthrough" to break the spiral of violence that has claimed some 260,000 people's lives since the war in Syria began in March 2011.

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cw/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)