Foreign Ministers of 14 EU countries called for an immediate end to the hostilities in Idlib

Foreign Ministers of 14 EU countries called for immediate cessation of fighting in the Syrian province of Idlib, said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

“Together with 13 colleagues, I call on the Syrian regime and those who support it to restore the ceasefire. The fighting must stop immediately. We must bring those responsible to justice”, –  Maas wrote on Twitter.

In addition, the ministers call on Russia to continue negotiations with Turkey to resolve the situation in the region. The statement was signed by the Foreign Ministers of France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Estonia, Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Ireland.

The statement, which is posted on the German news portal t-online.de, notes that Idlib is now “experiencing one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the Syrian conflict. The ministers, not directly laying the responsibility on Damascus, say that the Syrian authorities “are pursuing a strategy of conquering the territory at any cost, paying no attention to the consequences for the Syrian civilian population,” while the operation of the country’s army has intensified since December “with the support of Russian combat aviation. The ministers say that within a few weeks of fighting “almost a million Syrians were forced to flee”, and according to the UN, 298 civilians were killed.

At the same time, the ministers admit that there are radical groups in Idlib.

“We do not take terrorism lightly in any way. On the contrary, we are resolutely fighting it and are on the front lines of the fight against “Islamic State”, but the fight against terrorism cannot and should not justify the large-scale violations of humanitarian international law that we are experiencing every day in northwestern Syria”, –  they say.

Rear Admiral Oleg Zhuravlyov, head of the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of the Warring Parties in Syria, has previously stated that there is no confirmation of claims that a million refugees from the Idlib de-escalation zone have moved to the Syrian-Turkish border.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Turkey was unable to fulfill several key obligations to solve the problems around Syrian Idlib. In particular, it did not disassociate the armed opposition, which is ready for a dialogue with the government within the political process, from terrorists. For his part, the Vice-President of Turkey, Fouat Oktay, made a statement that the country has fulfilled its commitments to Idlib.

In accordance with the agreement reached at the May 2017 talks in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) by representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey, four de-escalation zones were created in Syria. The territory of three of these zones was taken over by Damascus in 2018. The fourth zone, located in the province of Idlib and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo, remains outside the government’s control. However, most of it was captured by terrorists from the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is banned in the Russian Federation. In September 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed in Sochi to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib, where more than a dozen different formations are located.

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