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The Syrian conflict: Russia vs the West?

John Kerry, David Cameron and Federica Mogherini discuss Russian air strikes and Assad’s future in Syria.

After four-and-a-half years of deadly conflict and many failed Western-backed efforts to remove the Assad regime from power, millions of people are fleeing the violence in Syria.

If they are there to fight Daesh, fine. But if the Russians are there to support Assad, it's a threat to the region, because it will attract more jihadis, more foreign fighters. It will wind up in greater violence and possibly in the destruction of the country.

by John Kerry, US secretary of state

And just as world leaders were assembling at the United Nations last week, the battleground in the Middle East shifted – suddenly and deliberately.

In a dramatic move, Russia increased its military presence in the country and then launched a fierce bombing campaign against groups opposed to the Syrian regime. On top of it, there is speculation of a ground assault.

It all happened so swiftly that many are wondering if Russian President Vladimir Putin is outmaneovering those who are trying to push the Syrian president out of power.

When Russian warplanes then entered Turkey’s airspace, which is bordering Syria, tension increased further, especially as the American Secretary of Defense said he did not believe it was a simple Russian mistake.

It demonstrated clearly the potential for a big power confrontation inherent in the Syrian conflict.

“What we are trying now is have a legitimate transition in order to save Syria and to have a unified, secular, whole Syria going forward. But if the Russians insist on fighting against that, there could be very serious consequences. The most serious of which would be that… Russia itself will become a target… So if they are not there to actually fight Daesh, it’s very dangerous for the long term,” US Secretary of State John Kerry told Al Jazeera.

Behind the scenes there is intense work now underway to break some sort of political deal. There is even talk of a transition that would allow Syria’s President Assad to stay on just a little longer.

We have to accelerate and invest seriously in the political solution to the war in Syria. It's been four-and-a-half years and Assad is still there, Daesh is still there. And everybody says there is not a purely military response that will lead to a solution.

by Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief

British Prime Minister David Cameron believes that Assad “can’t be part of Syria’s future. Of course it requires a sustained diplomatic push in terms of reconstruction and transition in Syria … we support a Syria without Assad and a Syria without ISIL.” 

From the American and European side, the efforts to end the Syrian crisis involve many players, including US Secretary of State, John Kerry; the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini; and Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron.

They all talk to Al Jazeera to discuss the impact of Russia’s military campaign in Syria, the threat of ISIL, the refugee crisis, and Assad’s future in Syria.

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