Zarif says terrorist groups must leave Syria's Idlib

Marsha Scott
September 6, 2018

A Syrian rebel and a war monitor said Russian air strikes had resumed against insurgents in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on Tuesday after several weeks.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to ally Syria on Monday for talks on the looming offensive against the country's last major rebel stronghold, his ministry said.

The Syrian government, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, aims to clear Syria's northwestern province of Idlib on the border with Turkey of militants who have been controlling the province since early 2017.

"We haven't seen anything like this for the last five months", he said, describing how one airstrike landed beside his home shortly before speaking with a Syria Direct reporter on Tuesday afternoon.

"We know that the Syrian armed forces are getting ready to solve this problem", President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday, calling Idlib a "pocket of terrorism".

Rebel-backer Turkey has held several rounds of talks with regime ally Russian Federation aimed at averting an assault on Idlib, but government troops have been massing near the rebel zone. "Don't let that happen!" he added.

Asked about Mr Trump's tweet, Mr Peskov said such warnings do not take into account "the risky and negative potential" of the rebel-held enclave and show that the White House does not have a "comprehensive approach" to solving the Syria crisis.

President Trump warned Assad against a potential upcoming offensive, tweeting "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province".

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Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's trip to war-ravaged Syria comes just days before a top-level tripartite meeting in Tehran to discuss the Syrian conflict, now in its eighth year.

Iran has called for militants to be "cleaned out" of Idlib.

Thousands of government troops have been surrounding the area, preparing for what appears to be a major assault.

Syrian army warplanes allegedly flew over and bombed the eastern town of Douma, 15 miles north of Damascus, in a suspected chemical-weapon attack April 7.

Idlib has been a haven for rebels and their families evacuated out of areas won back by the government, but there is no obvious place for them to move to within Syria if they abandon the province now.

Zarif said in Damascus that those talks also would focus on the battle against remaining militant groups that are fighting government forces in Syria.

Last year, they had designated Idlib province in the northwest as a "de-escalation" zone where violence would halt in preparation for a countrywide ceasefire.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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