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Lavrov: Terror 'abscess' in Syria's Idlib needs to be destroyed

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) speaks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during their meeting in Moscow on August 29, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the terrorist "abscess" in Syria's northwestern city of Idlib needs to be taken out before harming thousands of civilians who live there.

In a joint press conference with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Adel al-Jubeir in Riyadh, Lavrov said Wednesday that terrorists holed up in the city were using ordinary people as human shields in order to get the upper hand in negotiations with the Syrian government.

"For understandable reasons, Idlib is the last major stronghold of terrorists who are trying to gamble on the status of the de-escalation zone and hold civilians as human shields and bring the armed formations ready for negotiations with the Syrian government to their knees," he said.

"So, from all standpoints, this abscess has to be liquidated," the Russian foreign minister said.

After purging terrorists from most parts of the country and achieving several game-changing victories, the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been trying to negotiate evacuation deals with terrorists in Idlib, which sits on the border with Turkey.

The agreements grant amnesty to anti-Assad militants who are willing to live under state rule again, provided private lawsuits are not filed against them.

However, the terrorist have refused to sit down for negotiations, raising the possibility for military action by Damascus.

Further complicating the situation is Turkey's support for Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, which is in control of most of the city.

Reports suggest that Turkey is working with some so-called Syrian opposition groups in Idlib to take out terrorists so as to fend off a military action by Assad.

Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu hashed over the situation in Idlib in Moscow last week. While the two foreign ministers failed to agree on an exact way to achieve peace in the terrorist hotspot, they expressed that purging terrorists from Idlib was their ultimate goal.

The Russian FM said Wednesday that Moscow and Ankara were exploring ways to simultaneously separate  "regular armed formations" from the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, while laying the groundwork for a military attack.

"How do you translate this political accord into the language of practical action - this is what the militaries of Russia and Turkey, which are handling the situation ‘on the ground,’ are talking about," Lavrov said.

Earlier in the day, the Kremlin announced that it was discussing the situation in the region with Iran and Turkey.

Together, the three countries are the guarantors of a countrywide ceasefire in Syria. They have also been mediating a peace process since January 2016 among Syria’s warring sides in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the country.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the beginning of Syria's war.

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