West cries foul over humanitarian crisis in Idlib, which isn’t even happening – top Russian diplomat
The situation in Idlib, Syria, which remains the last major stronghold of hardline militants and terrorists in the country, has been among the main topics of the talks in Geneva between representatives of Russia, Iran, Turkey, and UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura.
“The so-called peaceful co-existence with terrorists is simply impossible. Fighting until their complete eradication must continue,” the Russian presidential envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, told reporters following the talks.
The most important thing to do now is to separate the moderate opposition from the hardline jihadists, primarily from the local Al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra (now rebranded as Tahrir al-Sham). “Idlib province is… a sort of zone of responsibility of Turkey; it is their responsibility to separate the moderate opposition from the extremists,” Lavrentiev said.
Large parts of the civilian population in Idlib are willing to reconcile with the government, but they are afraid to speak openly against the terrorists now. “I believe many will be willing to reconcile with the government, including the members of the moderate opposition groups,” he added.
The official fired back at the media hysteria and statements of certain Western politicians who speak about a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Idlib as inevitable. Earlier experiences in reconciliation already implemented in other parts of Syria will be useful during the liberation of Idlib, Lavrentiev said. Moscow and its allies are doing “everything possible” to prevent the suffering of civilians during the fight against terrorism.
“There is a lot of noise in the Western media about the ‘catastrophic situation’ looming in Idlib. Some representatives of the Western countries are already saying that it will be the biggest humanitarian disaster, predicting what has not happened yet. This is absolutely unacceptable,” the official stated.
Lavrentiev’s remarks come as the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, once again expressed support for the militants in Idlib. Any assault on the province, large parts of which are held by hardline jihadists, would be considered “reckless” by Washington, she said, adding that the “the consequences will be dire. The world will hold them responsible.”
Haley claimed that “Russia, Iran and Assad” were not interested in reaching any political solution in Syria. “All we’ve seen are the actions of cowards interested in a bloody military conquest of Idlib,” she stated.
It is unclear how the efforts of the Syrian government and its allies to regain control over its own territories, which were captured by internationally-recognized terrorists, can be considered a “conquest.”
A full-scale battle in Syria’s Idlib province will create a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in this blood-soaked conflict. My message to all parties: Protect civilians. Preserve hospitals. Respect international humanitarian law. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/8hM8qlKwo9— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) September 11, 2018
Later on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres weighed in on the Idlib issue, supporting the efforts to combat terrorism in Syria. The situation in the province “is not sustainable and the presence of terrorist groups cannot be tolerated,” Guterres stated, urging all parties involved to respect international law, avoid a “full-scale battle” and “spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians.”
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