Russia has taken note of attempts to disrupt the Moscow-Ankara agreements on creating a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing on Thursday.
"Regrettably, far from everybody likes the growing positive trends in the situation in Syria, achieved first and foremost through the efforts of the Astana format guarantor countries – Russia, Iran and Turkey," she said. "We’ve taken note of attempts to intercept Astana’s initiative, to disrupt the Russian-Turkish agreements on creating a demilitarized zone in Idlib, and to upset the settlement vector for the sake of attaining one’s own geopolitical aims, which have nothing to do with the aspirations of the Syrian people."
Zakharova pointed to a recent statement by the spokesman for the US-led coalition about progress in the counter-terrorist operation in Syria. "He claimed that although the Islamic State (terrorist organization outlawed in Russia – TASS) currently controls only one percent of Syria’s territory, a final victory is still a long way ahead, because the terrorists remaining there are well-trained."
"Such statements are clear evidence of the wish to excuse the illegal US military presence in 30% of Syria’s territory," Zakharova said. "According to Russia’s estimates, that presence by no means meets the interests of ultimate elimination of international terrorists on Syrian soil, but also becomes a major obstacle in the way of achieving that goal. As for the United States’ policy of creating quasi-government institutions in Transeuphratia, which we regard as a destabilizing factor, one can say that this is a brake on political settlement, too."
About the implementation of the September 17 Russian-Turkish memorandum on Idlib, Zakharova said that such work was going on. She recalled that the ultimate goal proclaimed in that document was the elimination of terrorist presence in that zone at the minimal cost for the local population.
"In the country’s regions cleared of terrorists life is gradually getting back to normal. Postwar reconstruction work is gaining momentum," she said. "Special attention is paid to the creation of conditions for the safe, voluntary and non-discriminatory return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes."
More than one thousand Syrians arrive in Syria from Lebanon and Jordan every day.
"The overall number of refugees repatriated since the launch of the Russian initiatives last July has approached 60,000," Zakharova said. "We regard our assistance to Syria’s socio-economic reconstruction as an important element of strengthening bilateral Russian-Syrian relations."
Talks with Turkey
Moscow stays in contact with Ankara on all Syria-related matters, she added.
"We maintain contacts with our Turkish colleagues on all matters related to the situation in Syria," she said, commenting on Russia’s position concerning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s immediate plans to launch an operation east of the Euphrates in Syria.
Russia is interested in a continued cessation of hostilities between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights, she said.