12/12/2017, 09.31
RUSSIA - SYRIA
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Russia's victory in Syria; Hilarion calls for return of Christian refugees

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Putin announces end to fight against ISIS and orders withdrawal of a part of the troops. Western powers criticisms of Russian intervention. The unity of Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians for the return of refugees to their homeland. Also the Russian Muslims mobilize for reconstruction and aid.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - The end of military operations against ISIS in Syria has yet to be completed, and it is not yet easy to draw all the conclusions, be it regarding the dangers of world terrorism or the balance of power between allies in the war against Islamic fundamentalism.

Yesterday, on his first visit to Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of his troops, who "brilliantly completed" their task with the victory over the Islamic State. Speaking from the Russian base in Hmeimim, in the province of Latakia, Putin stressed that the Russian base would continue to function. The Russians would respond to every new attack by the Islamist militants. "If terrorists raise their heads - he said - we will inflict blows on them that they have not yet experienced".

The Russian intervention in Syria, which began in 2015 at the invitation of the leader Bashar Assad, obtained - through air raids - the defeat of the militiamen of the Islamic State and of other Islamist groups, enemies of Assad and of the Syrian government.

The Russian intervention pushed a US-led coalition intervening in Syria - but not invited by Assad - to be effective in the fight against ISIS and not to have as its first aim the expulsion of Assad from power. Putin's visit to Syria is the first since 2010. He then traveled to Turkey and Egypt, strengthening a geopolitical alliance that effectively weakens US influence in the Middle East.

In any case, Russia seeks to strongly claim its decisive role in Syria, even in its response to criticism from international partners.

Who won

A senior official of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Marija Zakharova (photo 2), in a statement addressed to the Western allies reaffirmed the success of the Russian operations, comparing them with the Western "conquests" in the Middle East and Central Asia in previous years. Thus Zakharova commented on the statements of the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who supported the thesis that Russia would "appropriate" the victory against IS in Syria. "The Western partners have been declaring their coalition’s victory in Syria, not Russia” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page two days ago, "Gentlemen, get over it! Your conquests are Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, brag about those. " Drian had claimed that the Russian armies, rather than committing themselves to free Syrian territory, would be responsible for defending the interests of President Bashar Assad.

The fate of Christian refugees

The situation in Syria was also addressed by Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev), head of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate (photo 3), who launched the proposal to the other Churches to join forces to return Christian refugees to Syria. He pointed to the necessity to aid in reconstruction of housing, infrastructures and the churches themselves, offering to all the Christian confessions of the world a great opportunity to unite in service to their brothers.

 "We are in contact with the Church of Antioch," said the metropolitan, speaking on the Russia-24 channel, "we know which churches have been destroyed, desecrated, and they need restoration and reconstruction. We also have direct contact with the Syrian Orthodox Church, while the Anglicans in turn are in contact with some Christian communities in Iraq. The more we will be able to communicate among ourselves on these problems, by exchanging information and carrying out common projects, the more we will be able to solve the problem of the return of Christians to those places, from which they were driven out by war ".

Hilarion noted that for a real program of reconstruction of the churches, state intervention will not be enough, and only the Churches in communion can really understand what is necessary for Syrian Christians, thus allowing their return home. "We know that there are currently around two million refugees from Syria in Lebanon. Many are also in other countries, even in Europe and America. Those who are closer to their native places are ready to return, if it is possible to restore the normal conditions of life and profession of their faith," concluded Metropolitan Hilarion.

Muslim refugees

The president of the Spiritual Union of Muslims of Russia, the mufti Albir Krganov, also commented on the consequences of the war in Syria, which lasted for almost seven years, leaving huge human losses. "In these terrible years the Syrian people, our brothers of Muslim faith, have lost almost 500 thousand people, who fought for their homeland ... Syria has lived tremendous days, and thanks to the support of our country, it has finally freed itself from the darkness of pseudo-religious terrorists. As is known, the war has destroyed a country once in full bloom, like a garden, and we have a duty to continue to help it, "said the mufti of Russia, speaking at a benefit concert for Syria.

Krganov took part in a "Madlid" party night in honor of the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, during which the minister for religious affairs of Syria, Abdusattar As-Said, also spoke, expressing  his "enormous gratitude" to Russia and personally to its president Vladimir Putin.

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