Iran FM says situation in Syria’s Idlib ‘very dangerous’

Press TV – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has warned about the current situation in the militant-held Idlib province in northwestern Syria, describing it as “very dangerous”.

“The situation in the Syrian province [of Idlib] is very dangerous, and the Nusra Front terrorist group – which is not part of a de-escalation zone – is controlling a majority of the province’s regions,” Zarif said in an exclusive interview with RT Arabic Thursday.

He said the situation of Idlib is to be discussed during the upcoming meeting between the leaders and foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, and Turkey in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi on February 14.

The tripartite summit, whose main purpose is to provide further coordination among the three countries, will be held before the 12th round of Astana talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Thursday demanded Turkey do more to tackle militants in Idlib and fulfill promises it made as part of a deal with Moscow last year.

Turkey and Russia brokered a deal in September to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib that would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and militants.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Zakharova said the situation there was rapidly deteriorating and that militant fighters were trying to seize control of the entire de-escalation zone.

“Given the extremely difficult situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, we expect our Turkish partners to activate their efforts to ultimately turn the tide and to fully carry out the obligations they took upon themselves,” she said.

The militants “continue stockpiling toxic chemicals along the entire line of contact with the Syrian armed forces. We noted media reports that militants of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham recently delivered several tanks with chlorine from Jisr ash-Shugur to Khan Shaykhun in the south of Idlib Province,” she said.

“It is reported that in transporting toxic chemicals the terrorists again relied on the help of the notorious White Helmets, whose activists kindly provided their ambulances this time,” she added.

Iran, Russia on ‘perfect’ terms

In his press conference, Zakharova referred to Moscow’s relations with Tehran, and said “Russia has perfect relations with Iran, and the Iranians well know it.”

She made the comments in reaction to a January report by CNN which quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov as saying that Iran was not an ally of Russia, and Moscow’s priority was the security of Israel. Zakharova said CNN had distorted Ryabkov’s remarks in that interview.

In his Thursday interview, the Iranian foreign minister also declared that Iran and Russia have no disagreement over the political trend in Syria, and will continue their cooperation within the framework of Astana Process to bring back peace to the Arab country.

Late last month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the Astana peace talks would be attended by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, as well as observers from Jordan and the United Nations.

Since January 2017, Moscow, Tehran, and Ankara have been mediating peace negotiations between representatives from the Damascus government and opposition groups in a series of rounds held in Astana and other places. The talks are collectively referred to as the Astana peace process.

The first round of the Astana talks commenced a month after the three guarantors joined efforts and brought about an all-Syria ceasefire. The three states act as the guarantors of that truce.