WORLD Syrian official says Idlib demilitarized zone deal should end with eliminating terrorism


Syrian official says Idlib demilitarized zone deal should end with eliminating terrorism


06:40, September 21, 2018


Syrian soldiers walk in the town of Saida, Daraa province, Syria, on July 5, 2018. (File Photo: Xinhua)

The recently reached deal for creating a demilitarized zone in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib is a temporary one and should end with ridding Idlib of terrorism, Syria's Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told Xinhua in an interview Thursday.

Soussan's remarks came against the backdrop of the deal that was reached earlier this week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the need to establish a demilitarized zone between the Syrian forces and the rebels in Idlib province, which is considered as the last major rebel stronghold in Syria.

During a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the demilitarization zone will be established by Oct. 15. It will be created along the contact line of the armed opposition and the government forces with a depth of 15-20 km.

The radical rebels will withdraw from the demilitarized zone along with heavy weapons.

The deal came after negotiations between the Russian and Turkish sides, as the Syrian army was preparing to launch an all-out offensive to rid Idlib of the ultra-radical groups, which stood against the government's reconciliation offers such as the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), or the Levant Liberation Committee.

The Syrian army has been sending reinforcement to the frontline areas around Idlib as part of preparations to launch a wide-scale offensive to retake Idlib, where three million civilians live along with an estimated number of up to 50,000 rebels, including al-Qaida-linked ones.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Syrian government welcomes the deal.

In his interview Thursday, Soussan said that the deal is positive for the Syrian government as it would help in ridding Idlib of terrorist groups.

"First, this deal has been reached after consultations with the Syrian government, and secondly, it has pushed far the ghost of armed confrontation, and thirdly it would achieve the main goal for us, which is eliminating terrorism," the official said.

The official made it clear that the deal is temporary not a permanent one, noting that it should end with the full return of Idlib under the government control and the end of terror groups' presence in that part of the country.

"The basis of this formula in these areas is that this measure (Idlib deal) is temporary as it should end with the ridding the areas of terrorism, achieving national reconciliation and the full return of the authority of the Syrian state and its constitutions to those areas," he said.

He stressed that "in the final stages of achieving this deal, Idlib should return under the Syrian government control just as it was before."

Soussan pointed out to fact that any deal that could lead to end terrorism would surely be a step on the way out of the more than seven-year-long crisis, stressing that there should be no areas in Syrian under the control of the rebels or foreign forces that have entered Syrian without the consent of the government such as the U.S.-led coalition.

"There would be no abnormal situation in Syria and what I mean by that is that there would be no areas out of the government control, especially the areas under the terrorist groups' control or the control of foreign forces or some (foreign-backed) militias such as those in eastern Syria," he said, referring to the U.S.-backed forces operating in the eastern part of the country.

He reiterated that the Syrian government will wrest full control over Syria, adding that the presence of foreign forces without Damascus' consent is unacceptable.

"The return of the government's authority to all of Syria will be full and any foreign presence on Syrian soil without the consent of the Syrian government and out of the international framework is an illegitimate foreign occupation and it must end," he said.

The foreign ministry official stressed that "the only legitimate force in Syria is the Syrian Arab Army other than that any presence of other forces wouldn't be acceptable."

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