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Compromise with terrorists in Idlib is impossible, they must be eliminated - diplomat

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin admitted Idlib is a serious challenge
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MUNICH, February 17. /TASS/. Russia’s principled stance is that any a compromise with terrorists in Syria’s Idlib is impossible and that they must be eliminated, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said on Sunday on the sidelines of the discussion on the Syrian settlement at the Munich Security Conference.

According to the high-ranking diplomat, 90% of Idlib’s territory is controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group, outlawed in Russia). "Idlib is a serious problem, this is probably a major concentration of terrorists in the region and maybe beyond its borders," Vershinin said. "Our principled stance is no to any compromise with terrorists, they must be eliminated."

Vershinin stressed that this should be done in a way that no civilians are affected and "there should be no damage regarding security concerns, which the Turkish side had voiced." "Can this be done? Yes," he said.

On September 17, 2018 in Sochi Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed by October 15 to create a 15-20 km deep demilitarized zone in Idlib along the contact line between the Syrian government forces and the armed opposition. However, Ankara asked to give it extra time and delay the start of joint patrolling in Idlib due to its inability to guarantee security.

Impossible peace

Peace with Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorists active in Syria is impossible, Vershinin empasized.

"It’s impossible to say that we can make peace with Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists and similar organizations," the high-ranking diplomat said.

Vershinin stressed that the Astana trio (Russia, Iran and Turkey), which is continuing its fight against terrorism, will think about the ways in order not to harm or put in danger the civilians. "In this context, we will be committed to full implementation of humanitarian international law," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the February 14 summit of the Astana trio in Sochi that Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed on to take additional steps to stabilize the situation in Syria’s Idlib. The Russian leader said during the negotiations the three countries’ leaders discussed the ways to implement the Russian-Turkish memorandum on the de-escalation zone in this province.

Northeast Syria crisis

Dialogue between the Syrian government and the Kurds will be the best solution to the ongoing crisis in northeast Syria, Vershinin added.

"Various options were named of what can be done after or in case the US leaves Syria or if there are no foreign forces in northeast Syria, which were also mentioned here. We believe that probably the best option here would be solving these problems through dialogue between the Kurds and Damascus," Vershinin said.

"Certainly, we know about those problems which exist in relations between Damascus and the Kurds. We would support this dialogue, this is the path that should be chosen," the high-ranking diplomat said.

The Washington Post reported on Friday citing its sources in the Pentagon that the US Defense Department was working on the plans to create a buffer zone of Kurdish units in northeast Syria jointly with the military from European countries. Representatives of the Trump administration and the US Congress on the sidelines of the 55th Munich Security Conference called on European leaders, namely the UK, Germany and France, to create a safe zone for the Kurds and deploy about 1,500 soldiers to protect them, the report said.