Moscow vows no safe pas­sage for mil­i­tants in Idlib

The Gulf Today - - MIDDLE EAST -

UNITED NA­TIONS: RUS­SIA ON FRI­DAY warned it will not al­low mil­i­tants in Syria to be sent to Afghanistan or else­where un­der a deal reached with Turkey that averted a largescale mil­i­tary as­sault on rebel-held Idlib prov­ince.

Un­der the deal, Turkey agreed to sep­a­rate op­po­si­tion ighters from hard­line mil­i­tants who be­long to groups branded as ter­ror­ists by the United Na­tions, but the fate of those ex­trem­ists re­mains un­cer­tain.

“There is talk that they will be sent off to other hotspots, for ex­am­ple Afghanistan,” Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov told a news con­fer­ence at UN head­quar­ters. “This is un­ac­cept­able.”

“They have to be elim­i­nated or there has to be a ju­di­cial process,” he said.

Rus­sia and Turkey reached the agree­ment af­ter the United Na­tions and Western pow­ers warned that an all-out as­sault on Idlib would lead to a hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe in the prov­ince of three mil­lion peo­ple.

The deal calls for the cre­ation of a buf­fer zone to be es­tab­lished by Oct.15 from which all ighters must with­draw to al­low joint Rus­sian-turk­ish pa­trols.

Lavrov met with his coun­ter­parts from Iran and Turkey this week on the side­lines of the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly to dis­cuss next steps in the agree­ment on Idlib.

Iran and Rus­sia pro­vide vi­tal mil­i­tary sup­port for Syr­ian forces while Turkey sup­ports armed groups. the three coun­tries last year set up the As­tana group, which has largely eclipsed UN ef­forts in Syria.

Lavrov said Turkey faced “not a sim­ple task” in Idlib, not­ing that the United States had also promised to per­suade mod­er­ate ighters to split from the ji­hadist groups but failed to de­liver. UN diplo­mats say the agree­ment be­tween Rus­sia and Turkey to avert an of­fen­sive on Idlib has cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity to jump­start po­lit­i­cal talks.

On Thurs­day, seven coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States, France, Saudi Ara­bia, Jor­dan and Egypt urged UN en­voy Staffan de Mis­tura to ur­gently set up a com­mit­tee on draft­ing a post-war con­sti­tu­tion for Syria.

But Lavrov said prepa­ra­tions for the com­mit­tee should not be rushed.

“We know that pres­sure is be­ing ap­plied to Staffan de Mis­tura,” said Lavrov, adding that “it would be a grave mis­take” to force the war­ring sides to be­gin work with­out an agree­ment.

More than 360,000 peo­ple have died in the war in Syria, now in its eighth year, and mil­lions have been up­rooted.

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