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Russia’s U.N. envoy on U.S. relations: "We don't want to be loved," just "respected"

Some in GOP criticize Trump on Syria
Some in GOP criticize Trump on Syria 07:56

United Nations -- In the guest meeting room of the Russian Mission to the United Nations on the east side of Manhattan, Moscow's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia reflected on President Trump's decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. He also addressed U.S.-Russia relations. 

"All illegitimate foreign presence, which U.S. was one of, should eventually leave Syria," Nebenzia said. "We recognize that (the U.S.) contributed to fighting Da'esh," he said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

"As we see that Da'esh has largely been defeated, the decision is correct," Nebenzia said.

The seasoned Russian diplomat said that Russia was not taking a victory lap over the U.S. decision to withdraw from either Syria or Afghanistan. He said that the decision was the right one but it should lead to further U.S.–Russia dialogue.  

"Given how state-to-state relations should be, our relations are practically non-existent which is both a shame and a big question and a big worry not just for us, but for the rest of the world," he said. 

He acknowledged the issues with Russia in the investigations of the White House. "We became a factor in the U.S. domestic policies, a major factor, and given the vulnerabilities that exist around this administration, I don't see too bright prospects for improving them any time soon."

But, he said, "We want a dialogue on issues which are important, not just for you and us, for the world itself, including strategic stability, terrorism narcotics, and regional conflicts."

"We don't want to be loved," Nebenzia said, "We just want to be respected."

United Nations - Middle East - Yemen
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia listens during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen, Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. Bebeto Matthews/AP

On Friday, news reports surfaced that Mr. Trump's decision to pull out of Syria -- made without consulting U.S. allies and aides -- was made after a conversation with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. United States has supported Syrian Kurdish fighters to conduct a ground war against ISIS.

Internationally, a political settlement in Syria has been a long drawn out process, ongoing between Russia, Iran and Turkey, countries that are considered the guarantor states in what became known as the "Astana process." 

"Turkey is an important partner in Syria, through the 'Astana' political process, one of the guarantors with whom we cooperate productively on many things," Moscow's U.N. envoy said, including on the de-escalation zones, particularly in Idlib.

Nebenzia said large groups of foreign terrorist fighters are still in Syria, terrorizing the civilians who have not fled.

Unlike the Kurds, Nebenzia wants non-Syrian forces out: "I personally think that the pullout of all foreign forces which are in Syria illegally, illegitimately, and are de facto occupying parts of the country will only help and facilitate the stabilization that we have been witnessing in Syria, especially in the last year."

However, Nebenzia cast doubt on whether or not a U.S. withdrawal from Syria will actually take place: "We heard that before, these kinds of announcements but then we heard opposite things. It looks as if, this time, it's real."

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