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Lavrov Urges Regime Control Over North Syria

Lavrov Urges Regime Control Over North Syria

Wednesday, 16 January, 2019 - 10:45
US support for the YPG during the Syria conflict has been a major source of friction between the NATO allies. The US regards the YPG as an effective ground force in the fight against ISIS | AFP
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Syria's regime must take control of the country's north, after calls from the US to set up a Turkish-controlled "security zone" in the area.

"We are convinced that the best and only solution is the transfer of these territories under the control of the Syrian government, and of Syrian security forces and administrative structures," Lavrov told reporters.

Turkey said on Tuesday it would set up the "security zone" in northern Syria following a suggestion from President Donald Trump, who announced last month he was pulling American troops from the country.

The US-allied Kurds, who control much of northern Syria, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.

Senior political leader Aldar Khalil said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along the separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops to ward off a threatened offensive.

"Other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region," AFP quoted Khalil as saying.

The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) have been the key US ally in the fight against ISIS, taking heavy losses in a campaign now nearing its conclusion, with the radicals confined to an ever-shrinking enclave of just 15 square kilometers.

Ankara regards the YPG as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged a deadly insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

Russia is a long-time supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lavrov said the future of the Kurds could be secured under regime control.

"We welcome and support contacts that have now begun between Kurdish representatives and Syrian authorities so they can return to their lives under a single government without outside interference," Lavrov said during an annual press conference.

He said there was progress in resolving Syria's seven-year conflict and that the focus should remain on Idlib, the northwestern province that earlier this month fell under the full control of a militant group dominated by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

"The Syrian settlement is progressing, though of course more slowly than we would like," he said. "The fight against terrorism must be completed. Now the main hotbed of terrorism is Idlib."

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