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Syrian troops in Khan Sheikhoun not violating Russia-Turkey agreements, says Lavrov

Khan Sheikhoun is within Idlib's de-escalation zone
Syrian soldier standing on a tank in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria AP Photo/Albert Aji
Syrian soldier standing on a tank in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria
© AP Photo/Albert Aji

MOSCOW, August 26. /TASS/. A military operation of Syrian troops in the town of Khan Sheikhoun does not violate any agreement, including agreements between Russia and Turkey on the formation of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday.

"Speaking about the situation in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, particularly in Khan Sheikhoun and in the surrounding areas, the Syrian armed forces, as supported by us, are not violating any agreement," Lavrov said.

The Russian minister stressed that the ceasefire regime did not apply to terrorists from the very beginning.

"The most important thing is that despite all measures, including the formation of Turkish military observation posts, the shelling within the Idlib zone, including, as we repeatedly stated, above the heads of Turkish observers, continued and somehow intensified," Lavrov continued.

"In order to prevent such violations and similar provocative actions, strikes are delivered against targets, which pose threat, from the Syrian territory as well as from our Air Force base," he stated.

"This is why the elimination of this hotbed in Khan Sheikhoun by the Syrian military forces was legitimate and necessary from the point of the implementation of the tasks set by the UN Security Council to resolve the Syrian conflict," Lavrov added.

On August 19, the Syrian military forces launched an offensive on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the south of Idlib province, which had been under militants' control since 2014. On August 21, Al-Masdar online newspaper reported that the Syrian pro-government forces took control of Khan Sheikhoun.

Russian and Turkish presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan respectively, held a bilateral meeting in Russia’s Sochi on September 17, 2018, which resulted in an agreement to establish a de-escalation zone (15-20 kilometers deep) in Syria’s Idlib, along the contact line between government troops and armed opposition.