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NATO Unity Crumbles - Slovakia Welcomes Russian Intervention in Syria

Slovak PM Robert Fico says he doesn't wear ideological blinders. 

This article originally appeared in German Economic News.

Translated from German by Jan Schoepe

Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict has led to a schism inside NATO as Slovakia became the first member country to side with Russia. Meanwhile, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has attempted to arrange talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Prime minister Robert Fico of NATO member Slovakia is not opposed to Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict.

«If either an American or a Russian attack against targets of the Islamic State were successful, in both cases the same result is what counts», the social democrat said on Saturday during a Slovakian radio broadcast. He stated that he doesn't wear ideological blinders. According to Fico, the conflict in Syria can only be solved in cooperation with the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Russia continued with air strikes against IS over the weekend. «Firstly, we are defending our national interests and secondly, our assistance was requested by the Syrian government», Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian head of government stated during an interview on state-run television.

Medvedev also somewhat distanced himself (Medvedev is viewed as representing Russian liberal interests - Ed.) from president Assad. «He is the legitimate president but we are not competing on behalf of a certain politician. The Syrian nation decides who leads it», he said on Saturday. From the onset of Russian air strikes in Syria, the Russians claimed that they did not want to support Assad at all costs. However, they refused illegal demands to overthrow an elected head of state by military force from abroad.

According to the Russian Department of Defence, around 40 sorties were flown in Syria within 24 hours. Major general Igor Konaschenkov stated that 49 terrorist targets were destroyed.

Due to these bombardments, Islamic State have changed their tactics and undertook action to decentralise their ammunition dumps and headquarters. Konaschenkov pointed out that despite these measures, Russian bombers were still able to locate and destroy many enemy positions.

German FM Steinmeier requested that Iran contribute to efforts to end the Syrian war. «My wish is that Iran uses its influence on the Syrian government, including Assad and his circle, so that we can take the first steps towards a de-escalation of the conflict», Steinmeier said on Saturday during a meeting in Tehran.

Previous attempts at bringing Iran together with other regional powers, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, for Syrian peace talks have thus far failed. On Sunday, Steinmeier intends to travel to Saudi Arabia, a significant regional counterpart to Iran, whilst simultaneously, Federal Chancellor Merkel will visit Turkey.

The Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, appeared open-minded about contributing towards a peaceful solution for Syria. He stated that Iran is willing to play a «constructive role» and speak to all neighbours.

Steinmeier appealed to both sides to overcome any lack of enthusiasm to communicate. «Each actor in this region has responsibilities which exceed national interests. These responsibilities are more important than (political) ambitions and national pride», according to Steinmeier.

With the Iranian role in Syria in mind, Steinmeier stated that «It is no secret that our positions are not always congruent but that we share a common interest in putting an end to the killing and ensuring that Syria will remain a country.»

Concerning Assad's future, Zarif said that there had been to much focus on «individuals» in the past and that it would be preferable to preserve governmental institutions. He stated that «the Syrian people will decide who will be there from the beginning, and who will remain at the end.»

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