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Russia not ready to put up with terrorists presence in Syria’s Idlib - senior diplomat

Syrian government troops had to take action to put an end to terrorist attacks on Aleppo and the neighboring settlements, Sergei Vershinin said
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin
© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, February 22. /TASS/. Russia will never put up with the presence of terrorists in Syria’s Idlib governorate as there can be no truce with them, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin said in an interview with TASS.

"We have always been saying that we cannot put up with the presence of a nest of terrorism on Syria’s national territory," he said when asked whether the Syrian government army would continue efforts to exterminate terrorists in Idlib, like it was done in Aleppo.

"It should not be our position only, it should be the position of any state. Because to fight against terrorist is not only the right by the duty of any state. There can be no ceasefire with the as far as they are terrorists. And they are. They are Jabhat al-Nusra (an extremist organization outlawed I Russia - TASS) and its modifications controlling a larger part of the Idlib governorate," he said.

The Russian senior diplomat that Russia, Iran and Turkey, or the Astana format guarantor nations, had established a de-escalation zone in Idlib and had always been saying that this was a temporary zone. "All the documents on Idlib we have ever signed either with Turkey or with Turkey and Iran stress that we are committed to Syria’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence. It is Syria’s territory," he stressed.

He emphasized that Russia "spared no effort to ensure that the ceasefire the Syrian government imposed in Idlib with our support in early January stays in place," but terrorists had continued their attack.

"After the ceasefire was declared, terrorists, and there are tens of thousands of them in Idlib, have been shelling Aleppo," he noted. "Back then, they stayed some ten-fifteen kilometers of Aleppo. They shelled the city from multiple missile launcher systems at random, i.e. targeted dwelling quarters. According to our data, eight drone attacks have been staged at Hmeymin, where our base with our personnel is located, since January 9. Security of these people is of top priority for us."

Syrian government troops had to take action to put an end to terrorist attacks on Aleppo and the neighboring settlements, he said. "We definitely support them because the Syrian government is taking action against terrorists on its own territory. Naturally, all possible measure are being taken (while fighting against terrorist in Idlib - TASS) to save civilians," he said. "A number of corridors to the government-controlled territory have been established but they are poorly used because terrorist don’t let people use them. They are a human shield for terrorists.".

Contact with Turkey

The Russian senior diplomat stressed that the situation in Idlib was serious. "Tensions there are serious," he said. "We are sparing no effort not to let these tension grow into a more critical situation. We are doing this in contact with the Turkish side."

He recalled that Russia was in contact with the Turkish side. "A Russian delegation held such contacts in Ankara. They were then continued in Moscow. Such talks, we believe, should be continued. The most important thing is to prevent civilian casualties and continue the uncompromising fight against terrorists," the senior Russian diplomat emphasized.

According to Vershinin, Syrian government troops have liberated part of the demilitarized zone set up in the Idlib governorate under the Russian-Turkish memorandum of September 17, 2018.

"But our understanding is that the task for Syrian government troops was not advancing to the border to stop there. They retaliated terrorists’ attacks," he said. "When terrorists shell the country’s second largest city, isn’t it a motivation for government troops?"

The Russian senior diplomat noted that the problem of terrorists presence in Idlib had gone beyond Syria’s borders because terrorists have been reportedly moving to other countries, in Libya in particular. "It is a dangerous phenomenon," he added.

Situation in Idlib

The situation in Syria’s Idlib de-escalation zone deteriorated dramatically in late January when Syrian government troops staged a counteroffensive to retaliate ceasefire violations by militants. A larger part of the Aleppo and Idlib governorate’s has been liberated.

Moscow has repeatedly voiced support to these counter-terrorist efforts whereas Ankara claimed that government troops had violated the Sochi agreements on peace settlement. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned about a possible military operation in Idlib.

On this background, militants’ attacks on Syrian government army’s positions have intensified and Russia’s aerospace forces’ taskforce joined retaliation efforts on February 20.