PRESS RELEASE: The latest news regarding situation around Syria

AKP Phnom Penh, January 16, 2018 —

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks during talks with Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, Moscow, January 10, 2018

Mr Minister, friends,
I am happy to welcome you to the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation. We met several times last year and this was important considering the high level of communication between the presidents of Russia and Iran.
We were happy to welcome President of Iran Hassan Rouhani when he arrived on an official visit to Moscow last March. Later, Mr Rouhani met with President of Russia Vladimir Putin in Tehran and in Sochi.
Our foreign ministries, security councils and other ministries maintain close cooperation. A regular meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation is being prepared. We suggested holding it at the beginning of this year.
We have what we need to discuss, primarily international issues. We are now at a very responsible stage of preparations for our tripartite Russian-Iranian-Turkish initiative on holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. We are convinced that without our initiatives, starting with the Astana process launched a year ago, the Geneva talks would not have been so important for all the participants in this process. We are convinced (and recently spoke about this in Moscow with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura whom we received together with Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu) that the Syrian National Dialogue Congress can really create conditions for the success of the Geneva talks if there is an understanding that the part of the radical opposition that keeps making preconditions, including a regime change, is influenced by those that control it.
It is important to exchange views on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear programme. We note that IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stated in clear terms that Iran is fully complying with its commitments. We will continue upholding the viability of this programme and its major contribution to the consolidation of regional stability and the resolution of the issue of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We will also exchange opinions on other regional issues. Regrettably, the Middle East and Southwest Asia are not becoming more stable, and it is important for us to regularly coordinate our positions.
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the situation at the Rukban Syrian refugee camp near the Syrian-Jordanian border
On January 7, the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Jordan announced Amman’s approval of a one-time delivery of humanitarian aid across the Jordanian border to the Syrian refugee camp of Rukban, located on Syrian territory. On January 8, food and essential goods were brought to the camp. The list of goods and the amount of aid have not been disclosed.
We welcome the delivery of relief supplies to those stranded in Rukban. At the same time, we insist that the territorial integrity and independence of Syria be respected and international humanitarian law be observed during the delivery of relief supplies.
The Rukban camp is located in the 55-kilometre zone around At Tanf, which is de facto occupied by US forces. No Syrian army units or representatives of the legitimate authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic are allowed into the above area. The training of militants for illegal Syrian armed formations continues at US strongholds. Meanwhile, for UN humanitarian convoys trying to reach Rukban from Syrian territory, the “border” remains tightly sealed. According to various sources, an estimated 60,000 people in the Rukban camp are in an extremely dire situation, short of food and medicines.
We regard as unacceptable attempts by Washington to justify the use of military force against the sovereignty and territorial inviolability of the Syrian Arab Republic. Assurances by the United States that its military are allegedly staying on Syrian soil for the purpose of fighting terrorists are unconvincing and open to criticism. We demand that all restrictions on access for convoys of food and medicines be lifted and that humanitarian operations in the area be more transparent. As a reminder, the US armed forces are fully responsible for the 55-kilometre At Tanf zone they have occupied.

Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, January 12, 2018
Developments in Syria

The number of provocations by Jabhat al-Nusra militants and radical illegal armed formations, including attacks against Russian military bases, increased markedly in Syria in the first days of 2018. By the way, David Satterfield could share a lot of interesting information about the role of the United States in supporting this entity with US legislators.
The Russian Defence Ministry reported about the circumstances surrounding the bombing of the Hmeymim airbase and the attempted massive use of drones equipped with high-tech equipment against our military at Hmeymim and Tartus on December 31, 2017. Information-wise, I have nothing to add to this. Let me just pose the question again, perhaps, to David Satterfield: Where did the terrorists get these fundamentally new means of conducting military operations? And why did they appear right now, when anyone, even an uninitiated onlooker, can see that Syria shows signs of stabilisation, and favourable conditions are being created for achieving a political settlement and restoring peaceful life in that country? Is it because such a turn of events, the most important role in which is being played by Russia, does not sit well with certain influential forces? Today, we talked about this. Our American partners are talking about it openly. In particular, they are not comfortable with another critically important and truly large-scale event associated with the beginning of a political dialogue inside Syria on a fairly solid basis of considerable efforts to combat terrorism in that country. Perhaps, someone still harbours illusions about Russia’s rejection of its principled commitment to promote a peaceful political settlement in Syria based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254, or of its efforts to organise the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on January 29-30. If you have such illusions, no matter how hard you try to talk your legislators in the Senate into anything, you are not getting anywhere with that.
In response to numerous provocations by terrorists, Syrian government troops began to actively advance in the southeast of Idlib province and in the southwest of Aleppo province towards the Abu Duhur airbase, which, since September 2015, has been controlled by Nusra. Government forces are currently close to liberating it.
On the eve of New Year, Nusra, together with Ahrar al-Sham and Failak-ar-Rahman staged a raid in the Damascus suburb of Harasta. In its scale, this attack is comparable to the attempt by the jihadists to break through the blockade of the capital district of Kabun in March 2017. The situation in Harasta stabilised on January 4. However, the hostilities that took place in this area had a negative impact on the overall situation in the de-escalation zone of Eastern Ghouta, and suspended the implementation of a set of confidence-building measures in the area.
Things are much better in the de-escalation zones in northern Homs and the southern zone on the Syrian-Jordanian border. There are almost no violations of the ceasefire there. This allowed the Syrian government to begin practical work to restore the destroyed power transmission lines and, in general, resume normal power supply to the Rastan and Talbis districts.
In the first days of 2018, 69 former members of illegal armed groups took advantage of the Syrian President’s executive order on amnesty. In Damascus, 650 insurgents were put on record, and 50 medium- and heavy-duty weapons were turned in. Another 500 fighters settled their status in the newly opened special centres in Palmyra and the town of Furqlus in eastern Homs for dealing with draft dodgers and deserters.
According to Syrian human rights activists, in December 2017, 89 civilians died in mine explosions in the province of Raqqa, which was liberated by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurdish militia. Activists are complaining that the Americans and the local authorities that they support either completely ignore this matter, or try to charge local residents for disposing of mines and improvised explosive devices left behind by ISIS. This is what a high-ranking official of the US State Department, David Satterfield, meant when he said that the United States will now fight ISIS on the territory of Syria. How? By charging local residents for demining their land? We have repeatedly called for collective efforts to help Syria with humanitarian mine clearance. The situation in Raqqa, where civilians are actually unable to return, is additional confirmation of the importance of our appeal.
Russia continues its efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrians. The Russian military regularly deliver food and medicines to the worst off areas of Syria. The centre for the reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria is working to normalise the humanitarian situation. Regular reports on the work of the centre’s officers are posted on the website of the Russian Defence Ministry.
On January 6-7, drinking water was delivered to the residents of the towns of Salihiya and Hatla in the province of Deir ez-Zor, and medical assistance was provided, including to 32 children.
Safe and unhindered passage of UN humanitarian convoys to the villages of Tayyib and Tell-Gehab in the province of Deraa was effected. The residents were provided with food and household items, with a total weight of 180 tonnes and 240 tonnes, respectively.
The Russian military delivered several tonnes of humanitarian aid to the town of Zabadani in the Damascus region, and deployed a mobile medical unit there.

The humanitarian situation in Raqqa
The humanitarian situation in Raqqa remains extremely difficult, continuing to give rise to serious concerns. Large parts of the city are still mined, and there is a huge quantity of unexploded ordnance. Over 80 percent of buildings have been damaged. The city’s water supply system is out of operation, and electricity is only available in some districts. A great number of dead people are still under the rubble. The city faces a serious threat of epidemics. Relevant UN bodies are yet unable to duly assess the situation there. Conditions have not been put in place for civilians to return to the city.
The reason for this situation is obvious. It is the indiscriminate use of force by the so-called US-led international coalition that used to fight ISIS, followed by manipulations to form a certain type of local government beyond the control of Syria’s legitimate authorities in Damascus.
It is noteworthy that amid these developments, a conspiracy of silence between the Western media and political circles around the real state of affairs in Raqqa is taking shape. This is done so as not to discredit the actions of Washington and its allies in Syria, which, I would like to remind you again, are not based on international law. At the same time, there are ongoing attempts to blow out of proportion and distort the situation around Eastern Ghouta and Idlib, which are parts of the de-escalation zones in Syria.
Incidentally, what materials has the high-profile London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights released on the situation in Raqqa? I do not think I remember any. The guys are keeping mum. We should find out whether they are feeling all right there.

Source : Embassy of Russia in Cambodia

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