Remarks from the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions during a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Ayman Safadi
On February 19 a joint news conference following talks between Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan Ayman Safadi was held.
Question: We heard from Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlut Cavusoglu that President of Russia Vladimir Putin might meet with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan if the Moscow talks on Idlib did not produce results. Meanwhile, speaking in Parliament, President Erdogan just said that he was not satisfied with the results of the Moscow talks, that starting military operations in Idlib is just a matter of time, that the region will not be left to the regime and its associates and that this is the final warning. Turkey has said all this. What do you think about the Moscow talks? Will there be a summit meeting? Will this be a bilateral meeting or an Astana format summit? A couple of hours ago, Iran said it would take place soon.
Sergey Lavrov: As for the Russia-Turkey talks in Moscow yesterday and the day before, the sides did not reach a final agreement on how to implement the terms on Idlib negotiated by President Putin and President Erdogan. We did not propose any new requirements. We believe it is necessary to carry out everything our leaders agreed to. Let me recall that the key agreement on Idlib was the disengagement of the armed opposition that cooperates with Turkey from the terrorists. According to the agreements, terrorists are in no way included in the ceasefire regime, the cessation of hostilities. The disengagement of militants and terrorists, the wards of our Turkish friends, by the deadline fixed in the September 2018 Sochi memorandum was not carried out even after a year. Meanwhile, provocations from the Idlib zone and the shelling of Syrian armed forces positions, civilian facilities and the Russian Khmeimim base have continued.
At their second meeting last autumn, President Putin and President Erdogan agreed to create a demilitarized strip within the Idlib de-escalation zone. This 15-20 km wide area was supposed to be free of all militants and weapons to keep the militants and terrorists from shelling positions beyond the Idlib zone in blatant violation of the agreements reached by the two presidents. This buffer strip along the entire perimeter of the Idlib zone has not yet been established. Moreover, Syrian army positions and civilian facilities are being shelled and attempts to attack our Khmeimim air base continue. Naturally, confirming their commitment to the initial agreements on Idlib, including the truce agreement, Syrian armed forces are responding to these unacceptable provocations. We support their position.
Since the terrorists, and militants that are collaborating with them, are resisting moving back from the perimeter of the de-escalation zone and they are continuing their provocative actions, they are being pushed away from this perimeter as far as possible from the targets they are trying to attack. These Syrian troop actions are a response to the glaring violation of the agreements on Idlib.
Contrary to some assessments, I would like to emphasise that the Syrian troops are pushing the militants and terrorists back on Syrian territory, thereby restoring the control of the lawful Syrian Government over their own lands. While pushing back these thugs that refuse to observe the truce, Syrian troops have already reached the M-4 and M-5 roads. Ensuring traffic on these roads was also a specific part of the two presidents’ agreements on Idlib, which hadn’t been accomplished until recently.
I am talking about this in such detail because judging by the coverage of the situation in Idlib, you might think that nobody remembers what was agreed on in September 2018 – October 2019. Hysterical comments by some Western analysts may suggest the impression that at one time Russia and Turkey agreed to simply “freeze” the situation there, not to deal with the terrorists and let them do what they want, shelling everything around them from the so-called “de-escalation zone.” This is not true. Nobody has ever promised the terrorists that they won’t be touched in the Idlib zone. Read the agreements of President Putin and President Erdogan and everything will fall into place.
Naturally, we will continue reviewing the situation with our Turkish colleagues and ways to implement what was agreed on. Importantly, it is necessary to implement the agreements in order to produce results rather than restore the initial situation of a year and a half ago. We will work at this at all levels, including the top level. Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov mentioned this in his comments yesterday. I haven’t yet heard about preparations for the presidents’ meeting.