Russia accuses US of risking Syria ceasefire in Idlib | News | DW | 01.09.2019
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Russia accuses US of risking Syria ceasefire in Idlib

Russian officials said the US launched an attack during a ceasefire "in violation of all agreements." The US justified the strike, saying it targeted al-Qaida leaders "responsible for attacks threatening US citizens."

The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday accused the US of undermining a ceasefire in the Syrian province of Idlib after it launched airstrikes against al-Qaida leaders overnight.

US Central Command on Saturday said it had conducted a strike against al-Qaida in Idlib and that it targeted "leaders responsible for attacks threatening US citizens, our partners and innocent civilians."

The strike took place hours after a Russia-brokered ceasefire between rebels groups and government forces went into effect. Idlib is the last remaining major territory held by rebels.

Over the past two years, thousands of hard-line rebels were transferred from battlefronts in other parts of Syria to Idlib as part of government-backed deals. As such, Idlib has become a hotbed of extremist groups.

Read more: Syria's Idlib caught between hell and a hard place

Watch video 02:48

Syria: Surviving in Idlib

'In violation of all agreements'

Russian officials accused the US of undermining efforts to end fighting in Idlib by launching strikes without prior authorization in the so-called de-escalation zone.

Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said the attack was conducted "in violation of all agreements and without preliminary notification of key powers fighting terrorism in the region," in comments carried by the state-run TASS news agency.

"The US airstrike on the de-escalation zone in Syria's Idlib … was delivered in order to first of all, show that Washington is not planning to reckon with anyone else and second, that it keeps an active role in the Syrian process," said Kosachev, who chairs Russia's parliamentary committee for foreign affairs.

Read more: In Syria, rebel defeat marks 'end of revolution'

The Turkish question

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said his government was working with Moscow "to avoid new massacres and migration waves despite the regime's provocation in Idlib."

Turkey supports rebel factions in Idlib and is considered one of the ceasefire's guarantors, along with Russia. However, Ankara has clashed with the Syrian regime, accusing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of undermining peace efforts with fresh offensives.

The Syrian government has urged Turkey to withdraw its forces from Idlib immediately or face further consequences.

"Erdogan will be forced to leave Syrian land," senior Assad adviser Bouthaina Shaaban told local media on Saturday. "This is our decision, not by his choice."

Read more: Opinion: Take Turkey's threats to invade Syria seriously

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ls/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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