MOSCOW – Russia will resist any attempts to whitewash the terrorists holed up in Idlib, Syria, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said, adding that engaging in talks with them as the US is hinting is out of question. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Al-Qaeda offshoot formerly known as Al-Nusra, which controls Idlib, has been designated a terrorist organization not only by the UN, but by the US itself, Lavrov stated, according to RT.
However, officials in Washington, including the Special Envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, “allow themselves statements, from which a conclusion can be made that ‘it’s not such a terrorist organization anymore’ and that dialogue with it can be established under some circumstances”, he noted.
“It’s not the first time we hear such hints and we consider them absolutely unacceptable,” the Russian foreign minister noted.
The foreign minister also said that another round of consultations between Russia and Turkey is currently being prepared in order to “agree on ways of turning Idlib into a real de-escalation where the terrorists aren’t in charge”. Tensions are high between Moscow and Ankara after Turkey sent troops to Idlib a few weeks ago amid a large-scale offensive by the Syrian military on the last terrorist stronghold in the country.
The move provoked clashes between the Turkish and Syrian forces, with casualties on both sides. Ankara is demanding that Moscow pressure Damascus into ceasing its operation, while Russia has told Turkey that its promise to separate the ‘moderate opposition’ from the terrorists still remains unfulfilled.
On Thursday, Turkish artillery backed a militant attack on the Syrian positions, forcing Russian bombers to intervene. The Turks only stopped the shelling after Moscow contacted Ankara on the military hotline. Lavrov insisted that it was no surprise for the Turkish military that the terrorists were being targeted.
Earlier Russian-Turkish agreements on Idlib never envisaged that strikes against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham would stop, he added.
“I’m sure that the Turkish servicemen who work on the ground see and understand everything. Especially, considering the fact that on many occasions the terrorists attacked our position, the positions of the Syrian military and civilian infrastructure from the very location where the Turkish observation posts are set up,” the FM stated.