At the UN Security Council, Iran and Russia have underlined the need to purge Takfiri terrorists from their last major stronghold in Syria amid strong objections by sponsors of militant groups fighting against the Syrian government.
During a meeting on Tuesday, Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo defended the counter-terrorism fight in Syria’s Idlib Province, saying it its part of the procedure to restore security to the war-torn state.
Iran, Russia and Turkey, the three guarantor states of the Syria peace process, believe that civilians should be taken into account in the Idlib liberation operation, he added.
Khoshroo also described dialog as the only way to resolve the Syria crisis, saying that last week’s summit in Tehran affirmed the Syrian people’s right to determine their own fate.
He further warned against attempts by certain states to stage a false-flag chemical attack in Syria and then accuse the government of President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons against its own people.
The latest “fake” news on the possible use of chemicals by the Syrian government is nothing more than a scenario to justify another Western military aggression against the country, the Iranian envoy noted.
Touching on Iran’s military advisory mission in Syria, Khoshroo said that the Islamic Republic is fighting terrorism at the request of the Damascus government.
On the contrary, he said, the US military presence in Syria is illegal and violates the UN Charter.
The Security Council met at Russia’s request to brief the 15-member body on the outcome of the Tehran summit, which was attended by the Iranian, Russian and Turkish presidents.
In turn, Russia’s UN Envoy Vasily Nebenzya told the UNSC that foreign-backed Idlib terrorists should not be shielded and allowed to hold civilians hostage.
“Terrorists must not be allowed to hold hostages indefinitely and use hundreds of thousands of civilians in Idlib as a human shield,” he said, adding that “it is impossible to exist side by side with terrorists.”
Nebenzya emphasized that the de-escalation zones in Syria were created as “temporary entities,” not permanent ones.
“Sooner or later, they were to be replaced, first by local truces. And in those cases where that did not take place, by an anti-terrorist operation, which happened in other de-escalation areas, which are currently under the control of Syrian authorities,” he said.
Nebenzya dismissed plans by the Syrian government to conduct a gas attack, saying that there was “irrefutable proof” showing that the militants were planning such an assault.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Washington would consider any large-scale military campaign on Idlib as a “reckless escalation” and called on Russia to prevent it.
“Russia, Iran and Assad are demolishing Idlib and asking us to call it peace,” she said, warning that Washington would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.
Nebenzya fired back and accused some Security Council member states of escalating rhetoric.
“The wordings started sounding basically along the lines that saying force against a sovereign state — Syria — can be used, and not only related to alleged use of chemical weapons, but basically also if there is a military operation in Idlib,” he said. “We are not talking about a military operation. It’s an anti-terrorist operation.”
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres appealed to Russia, Iran and Turkey to find ways to protect Idlib civilians and avoid a full-scale battle there.
“It is important that those — especially the three guarantors of the Astana process — find a way in which it is possible to isolate terrorist groups. And it is possible to create a situation in which civilians will not be the price paid to solve the problem of Idlib,” he told reporters.
Guterres also said he understood that the situation in Idlib was unsustainable, but “fighting terrorism does not absolve warring parties of their core obligations under international law.”