MOSCOW, March 7. /TASS/. Moscow does not see the Syrian army’s operation in Eastern Ghouta as a move running counter to the latest UN Security Council resolution on Syria, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
She recalled that the Syrian army had launched a large-scale counterterrorism operation in Eastern Ghouta in response to daily artillery bombardments of the central districts of Damascus "with a view to eliminating he threat to local residents’ security emanating from there." "Russia does not view Damascus’ counterterrorism operation as contravening the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2401 passed recently and supports the fight against terrorists in Eastern Ghouta by the actions of its Aerospace Forces," Zakharova stressed.
"Paragraph 2 of this resolution clearly states that the cessation of hostilities does not extend to military operations against ISIL (former name of the Islamic State terror group), Al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra (these terrorist organizations are outlawed in Russia) and other terror groups labeled as such by the UN Security Council," she noted. "Simultaneously, in coordination with the Syrian authorities, all possible measures ae taken to avoid casualties among civilians who are used by terrorists as a human shield."
Militants continue to control 80 square kilometers in Eastern Ghouta or about one-third of this area located along the Damascus-Homs highway. On March 4, a spokesman for the Syrian armed forces told the SANA news agency that government troops continue military operations against terrorists during the breaks between the humanitarian pauses declared at Russia’s initiative. They are in effect from 09:00 (10:00 Moscow time) to 14:00 (15:00 Moscow time) local time. They are called to "facilitate civilians’ evacuation from the districts controlled by armed gangs," he stressed.
On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told reporters in Damascus that "the Syrian army would pursue terrorists in Easten Ghouta but, at the same time, will observe the agreed humanitarian pauses for civilians’ evacuation."