US threats to carry out attacks against Syria amid reports of Syrian plans to use chemical weapons will not change the government’s plans to free the jihadist-held province of Idlib from the terrorists, the Syrian minister Walid Muallem told Russian radio station Rossiya 24 on Sunday.
“All that is being done by the United States will not affect the determination of the Syrian people and the Syrian army to free Idlib and end terrorism in Syria,” Muallem said.
He pointed out that US statements about alleged preparations for a chemical attack by the Syrian government were used only to justify possible attacks on Syria.
“We, the people and government of Syria, would like to end the conflict, but the interference of Western countries is hindering this,” the minister said.
Muallem added that, owing to Russian efforts, some 20,000 refugees returned to Syria from neighboring Lebanon.
Pope Benedict on Sunday expressed concern about the risks of a possible humanitarian catastrophe in the Syrian province of Idlib amid reports of a potential offensive by the government and urged the international community and the parties engaged in the conflict to have dialogue on behalf of civilian life.
“The winds of war are still blowing and the disturbing news about the risk of a possible humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib province is coming in. I appeal once again to the international community and all parties involved to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, dialogue and negotiations, in accordance with international humanitarian law and to safeguard the lives of civilians,” the Pontiff said.
The situation in Idlib has increased over the past week amid recent reports of a potential government offensive after Russia claimed to have evidence that Idlib terrorists were preparing a fake chemical weapons attack to shape government forces and incite a US-led military intervention.
Idlib province is one of Syria’s climbing zones and a remnant of the terrorist insurgency in the country. Under the ceasefire agreement, intermediated between Syrian government troops and armed opposition, military activities are banned in the area, but ceasefire guarantors, which include Russia, Turkey and Iran, repeatedly record breaches of the truce.