MOSCOW, February 6. /TASS/. Increasing terrorist activities in Syria have led to the death of Russian and Turkish military experts, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
According to the ministry, Syrian government forces had to react to the unacceptable rise in terrorist activities. In particular, terrorists from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group [the new name of the Jabhat al-Nusra group outlawed in Russia - TASS], who seized the de-escalation zone, stepped up their attacks on Syrian troops and nearby cities, primarily, Aleppo, in December 2019 and January 2020.
The Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that over 1,400 militant attacks involving tanks, machine guns, infantry fighting vehicles, mortars and artillery took place in December 2019. Terrorists violently suppressed civilian protests and shelled humanitarian corridors to prevent civilians from leaving Idlib. "In fact, jihadists are keeping Idlib residents hostage, using them as human shields," the ministry added.
"In mid-January, the Russian and Turkish militaries made another effort to introduce a ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone. However, instead of reducing their military activities, terrorists increased attacks," the statement said. "More than 1,000 attacks have been recorded in the past two weeks alone. Hundreds of Syrian troops and civilians have been killed and wounded. Russian and Turkish military experts have died tragically. Drone attacks on Russia’s Hmeymim Air Base are ongoing," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.
According to the document, all this points to an unacceptable increase in terrorist strength in Idlib, where militants have complete impunity and free hands, while the movement of armed groups first to northeastern Syria and then to Libya has taken the number of radicals to dangerous heights. "Government forces had to react to these developments in order to protect hundreds and thousands of Syrians from terrorist violence. A thing to note is that the Syrian army is fighting on its own soil against those designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council. There can be no interpretations. It is the Syrian government’s right and responsibility to combat terrorists in the country," the Russian Foreign Ministry emphasized.
Commitment to agreements
Moscow remains committed to the agreements reached by the Astana trio (Russia, Iran, Turkey) and will continue coordination with Ankara and Tehran for the sake of achieving security in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out.
"We reaffirm our commitment to the agreements reached at the Astana talks, which envisage fighting terrorist groups in Syria on the condition of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. We will maintain close coordination with our Turkish and Iranian partners for the sake of achieving lasting stability and security on the ground and advancing the political process conducted by the Syrians themselves with the assistance of the United Nations and in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2254," the statement added.