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Militants, Terrorists Must Be Removed From Idlib

Militants, Terrorists Must Be Removed From IdlibMilitants, Terrorists Must Be Removed From Idlib

Militants must be “cleaned out” of Syria’s Idlib Province, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday as he prepared for talks with Syria and Russia about dismantling the last major enclave held by rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

Zarif spoke at the start of a visit to Damascus for talks with Syrian officials about a Sept. 7 meeting between Iran, Turkey and Russia which will focus on Syria.

“All of Syrian territory must be preserved and all the factions and groups should start contributing to the (post-war) reconstruction process. The displaced should return to their families and homes,” Zarif said, according to Fars News Agency.

“And the terrorists in the remaining parts of Idlib must be cleaned out and the region should be placed back under the control of the Syrian people,” he said.

Syrian government forces are preparing a phased offensive in Idlib and surrounding areas held by rebels fighting Assad, a close Russian ally who has also been backed by Iranian forces in the bloody civil war.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday Washington viewed the government assault on Idlib as an escalation of the war, and the state department warned that Washington would respond to any chemical attack by Damascus.

President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran reportedly on Sept. 7.

The meeting will focus on the battle against remaining militant groups in Syria.

  Fighting Extremism

“In the meeting that we will have in Tehran next Friday as a continuation of the three-way political round, the methods of how to confront extremist and terrorist groups, like Tahrir al-Sham, will be examined,” Zarif said, according to IRNA.

Last week, Iran’s defense minister traveled to Damascus and signed an agreement for defense cooperation between the two countries with his Syrian counterpart.

Tahrir al-Sham, which includes the al Qaeda-linked group formerly known as Nusra Front, is the most powerful terrorist alliance in Idlib.

Zarif went to Sayeda Zeinab, a shrine south of Damascus revered by Shi’ites, as his first stop on the trip. He also met his counterpart Walid al-Muallem on Monday and was to meet Assad later in the day.

During the meeting with Syrian foreign minister, the two sides discussed the latest developments in bilateral ties and Syria, the issue of the Syrian refugees, economic cooperation and Iranian companies' partnership in rebuilding the Arab country.

Al-Muallem asked Zarif to continue support for his country in efforts to degrade the terrorist groups and commended Tehran's help in the past.

 

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