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Iran, Russia have means to ensure Syria respects ceasefire: French FM

A Syrian soldier walks along a destroyed street in al-Shifoniya as they advance in the militant-held Eastern Ghouta area on March 4, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The French foreign minister says Iran and Russia have the means to ensure that Syria honors a UN resolution calling for a 30-day ceasefire across the Arab country.

Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday urged Tehran and Moscow, which have been helping the Syrian government in its counter-terrorism operations, to use their influence on Damascus and make sure it respects Resolution 2401.

The top French diplomat further reaffirmed that Paris would respond if the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria is proven.

Resolution 2401, which was passed by the UN Security Council on February 24, calls for a ceasefire “without delay for at least 30 consecutive days.” The truce, however, does not apply to operations against the Takfiri Daesh and al-Nusra terror outfits as well as “all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with terrorist groups.”

Le Drian’s remarks come amid a Syrian army operation to liberate the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, which has been used by a host of militant groups, including the Takfiri al-Nusra Front, to target the Syrian capital with deadly mortar and shelling attacks.

The militants have been using the civilians in Eastern Ghouta as human shields in the face of army advances and thus blocking their exit through the humanitarian corridor set up by the government.

Paris, in tune with other Western powers and mainstream media, has been trying to pin the blame for the crisis in Eastern Ghouta on the Syrian government and Russia, which provides air cover to the national army’s ground operations.

They have also been trying to link an alleged chemical attack in the region to Damascus, in what analysts say is an attempt to justify a future military action against the Syrian government and in favor of the militants.

Syria has voiced full support for the ceasefire resolution, on the back of which Moscow and Damascus have been announcing daily pauses in the fighting to facilitate the evacuation of civilians and aid delivery in Eastern Ghouta.

In a letter to the UN on Tuesday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry called for putting pressure on the states, which support and run terrorist groups, to abide by the provisions of UN Security Council’s Resolution 2401 and force these groups to stop shelling the residential areas, state institutions and medical facilities.

Damascus has also rejected allegations that it is using chemical weapons, saying Western states are using claims of the use of chemical weapons as an excuse to violate the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Last week, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is sympathetic to the militants operating against the Damascus government, claimed a suspected chlorine attack had taken place in Eastern Ghouta region on February 25.

Both Russia and Syria rejected that report as baseless.

France, along with the US and Britain, have said they would strike Syria if the claims are proven.

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