FORT DE BREGANCON /France/, August 19. /TASS/. Russia supports the Syrian government army’s efforts against terrorists in the Idlib governorate where they stage attacks from, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday at a joint news conference ahead of talks with his French counterpart, Emanuel Macron.
He drew attention to the fact that before the establishment of a demilitarized zone in Idlib terrorists had controlled fifty percent of its territory whereas now 90% of Idlib’s territory was controlled by terrorists. "We see them staging attacks from there. Moreover, and it is very dangerous, we see militants moving from this region to other parts of the world, and it is an extremely dangerous thing," he said, adding that numerous attempts at attacking the Russian airbase at Hmeymim had been staged from the Idlib zone.
"That is why we support efforts of the Syrian army which is conducting local operations to neutralize these terrorist threats," he stressed. In his words, the Idlib zone had never been meant as a safe place for terrorists. "On the contrary, we have been saying that fight against terrorists will be continued," he said.
The Al Mayadeen television channel said on Sunday evening the Syrian government army had entered the city of Khan Sheikhoun on August 18 after fierce battles with Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) and Jaish al-Izzeh extremist groups. The Syrian army command seeks to regain control over the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway running across the Idlib governorate.
Idlib is the only large Syrian region that is still controlled by illegal armed groups. A norther de-escalation zone was set up in Idlib in 2017 to give shelter to militants and their families who are reluctant to voluntarily surrender arms. Twelve Turkish observation stations are operating in the Idlib governorate and adjacent areas of Aleppo and Hama governorates.