Russian Syria Pullout 'Positive' for Geneva Talks, Says Arab League

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Russia's withdrawal of forces from Syria is a "positive step" that will help the ongoing Geneva peace talks, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on Wednesday.

Russian warplanes began leaving Syria on Tuesday after Moscow's surprise decision to withdraw most of its forces from the war-torn country.

"The Russian announcement represents an important positive step in the efforts of the international group for Syria in making the Geneva talks a success," Arabi said in a statement.

Offering his support to U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura's efforts in holding the Geneva talks, Arabi urged the various Syrian groups to be "wise and flexible" during negotiations.

He said they should "prioritize the supreme interests of the Syrian people to reach a final agreement on the transitional period... that can help achieve the aspirations of the Syrian people".

The talks are aimed at a deal that will create a transitional government, a new constitution and general elections within 18 months.

De Mistura has acknowledged there are huge gaps between the various sides but said he hopes that developments on the ground, including the Russian withdrawal, could assist a breakthrough.

The talks are expected to end on March 24, with a new round possibly beginning in early to mid-April.

More than 270,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict since it erupted in 2011, while millions more have been displaced.

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