No major offensive planned in Syria’s Idlib: Russian minister


BERLIN — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that the Syrian regime is not preparing a major offensive against the opposition-held Idlib, adding that Moscow will do everything to protect civilians.

Russia-backed regime forces have massed around Idlib in recent weeks, sparking fears of an imminent air and ground attack to retake the last major opposition bastion.

“What is being presented at the moment as the beginning of a Russian-backed offensive by Syrian forces is not a faithful representation of the facts,” said Lavrov during a German-Russian forum in Berlin.

“Syrian forces and we ourselves are simply reacting to the attacks coming from the zone of Idlib,” he argued.

Lavrov also said that Russia was concerned about civilians’ welfare.

“We will take care on these issues, we will establish humanitarian corridors, set up ceasefire zones and we are doing everything to ensure that the civilian population would not suffer,” he said.

Idlib province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria’s beleaguered rebels, worn down by a succession of government victories in recent months.

Some three million people live in the zone now, about half of them already displaced by the brutal seven-year war and others heavily dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, according to the UN.

Recent hostilities have displaced more than 38,500 people in less than two weeks, said the UN, which has warned that a full assault on Idlib could create the century’s “worst humanitarian catastrophe”. — AFP