Putin: No military action in Idlib in near future, focus is to help civilians wherever they live

Vladimir Putin said he does not foresee any military action in Syria’s Idlib in the near future, stressing that peace –not fighting– is the ultimate goal. Putin spoke at a briefing with Austria’s Sebastian Kurz in St Petersburg.

"I do not see any military action in the zone in the foreseeable future, we don't want fighting in this area – what we want is to achieve peace, and the instruments that we've chosen have been effective so far," President Putin said during the press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in St. Petersburg.

Putin also said that the humanitarian approach in Idlib "should be on helping people," whether they live in territories controlled by the Syrian government or by the opposition.

"We shouldn't really care where these people live, they need to be helped. They shouldn't suffer," Putin said.

The Russian president also outlined Austria's readiness to join humanitarian efforts in Syria.

Putin said that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been helpful, adding that he was also behind the idea to create the demilitarized zone. "We have been working closely with our Turkish partners and we can see that they treat these agreements as something very serious."

Kurz also spoke about Syria, stating that "Russia, as a great power, has a great responsibility to find a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine and in Syria." He added that foreign troops need to leave Syria.

The Austrian chancellor spoke positively of Austria-Russia relations, saying the two countries have a "high level of cooperation" with one another. He added that EU countries should maintain dialogue with Russia and strive for improving relations with Moscow.

‘Europe supports Nord Stream 2’

The press conference took place after the signing of an assets-swap agreement between Russia's Gazprom and Austria's OMV, which was signed in the presence of Putin and Kurz.

The two leaders spoke on a range of topics, including energy issues and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which US President Donald Trump has called "inappropriate" as he tries to boost America's export of liquified natural gas as an alternative to Russian pipeline deliveries. He has tried to persuade Germany to walk away from the project.

However, Kurz stressed that European countries that are involved in the project still support Nord Stream 2. There are still issues to be resolved, such as ensuring that the interests of Ukraine as a transit state are "taken into account," he added.

Putin, meanwhile, said that "we will fight to implement this agreement," while adding that it would be a shame if the EU fails to defend its interests.

It is "very reasonable" for European countries not to choose to buy gas from other regions such as the US, Putin said, noting that US gas would cost at least 30% more for European states.

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