The Syrian armed forces plan to retake the city of Raqqa from Daesh, and Russian aviation is expected to support the operation, according to Russia’s UN Office envoy.
GENEVA (Sputnik) – The Syrian army is planning to launch an offensive on Deir Ez-Zor and Raqqa with the support of the Russian air group deployed in Syria, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva Alexei Borodavkin said.
“In line with UNSC [UN Security Council] Resolution 2254, the ceasefire regime in Syria does not apply to Daesh, al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups…As a result of operations by the Syrian armed forces with [the] support of Russian combat aircraft [the Syrian] city of Palmyra has been liberated, and now further offensive operations are being planned in the direction of Deir Ez-Zor and Raqqa,” Borodavkin told reporters in Geneva.
Syria Ceasefire Mostly Holding but Some Forces Attempt to Disrupt It
“There are forces that are deliberately provoking the failure of the cessation of hostilities. We are constantly talking about the need to block the Turkish-Syrian border through which terrorist group fighters flow and weapons, military equipment and ammunition are smuggled. It is necessary to firmly curb this flow in order to strengthen the ceasefire regime,” Borodavkin stressed.
According to the Russian envoy, the United States and Russia are making joint efforts to put an end to the Syrian conflict.
“We are well aware that there are opponents of the cessation of hostilities and they will do everything they can to disrupt this regime, which is what is happening now,” Borodavkin said, adding nonetheless that “in general, the regime is being adhered to.”
A US-Russia-brokered ceasefire came into force across Syria on February 27. Syria has been mired in civil war since March 2011, with government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad fighting numerous opposition factions and extremist groups. The truce does not apply to terrorist groups such as Daesh and al-Nusra Front.
More Militant Groups Cut Ties With al-Nusra Front, Join Ceasefire
“The groups that want to join the cessation of hostilities must sign relevant documents, report their exact location and disengage from Nusra Front units because, at present, they are, unfortunately, heavily mixed on the battlefield,” Borodavkin told reporters.
According to Borodavkin, “certain progress” has been observed in the US work with illegal armed groups in Syria.
“Contacts and cooperation between Russian and US militaries have recently intensified. Phone conferences between Hmeymim [Russian air base in Syria], Amman, Moscow and Washington are regularly held. Our militaries are meeting at the negotiating table with maps and necessary intelligence data that help to prevent violations of the cessation of hostilities and strengthen it. I think that in the near future many issues will be resolved within this US-Russian military cooperation,” Borodavkin told journalists.
No Evidence Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar ash-Sham Join Truce
“We heard statements from these groups that they have allegedly joined the cessation of hostilities [in Syria] but we have no official confirmation [of these statements],” Borodavkin told journalists.
The envoy recalled that the leadership of Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar ash-Sham had repeatedly stated they were fighting “shoulder to shoulder” with al-Nusra Front militants and called on the jihadists to unite in their fight against government forces.
“If Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam are serious about finding a political solution to the conflict in Syria, they have to radically change their positions,” Borodavkin emphasized.
On Tuesday, Russia requested to add the two groups operating in Syria to the UN sanctions list that already contains Daesh. The Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition includes representatives of both Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam.