Canada-Russia disagreement on Idlib

Canada-Russia disagreement on Idlib
At the news conference following a meeting with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 7, 2018 (Kremlin.ru)

Targeting terrorists, bombing civilians

On September 6, 2018, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland issued a statement urging the Syrian regime and its allies to protect civilian lives in case of an expected Assad’s offensive in Idlib.

The statement repeats a notion that “since the beginning of the war, the Syrian regime and its allies have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law” by bombing civilians and using chemical weapons against Syrian people. Canada intends to hold this regime accountable for its war crimes by means of “collection and preservation of evidence in the region.” With the escalation of tensions in Idlib, Chrystia Freeland expresses her concerns over a potential “disastrous humanitarian impact for the 3 million civilians” currently present in the area. She doesn’t exclude that Assad might use chemical weapons again. Thus, the regime is called “to respect international humanitarian law, to safeguard civilian lives, and to allow for full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.” It is concluded that Canada “stands ready to respond as necessary.”

“Russia and Iran, as allies of the Syrian regime, bear moral responsibility for the continued suffering of the people of Syria and the destruction and death caused by any Assad regime offensive or chemical weapons attack.”

According to the Russian side, most of the Idlib zone “is controlled by terrorists that have united around Jabhat al-Nusra as part of the structure called Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.” This information was vocalized by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Maria Zakharova during her press-conference on September 7, 2018. She said that Russian and Syrian troops were working under the strategies of how to minimize civilian casualties while fighting against terrorists. And it was emphasized that Russia stayed committed to the cause. Maria Zakharova also stated that al-Nusra was purposely destroying infrastructure in Idlib, preventing civilians from leaving the zone through open humanitarian corridors and “leading residents of villages on the contact line deep into the province in the hope of using innocent people as live shields.” Taking into consideration everything mentioned above, Russia appeals to their international partners to draw “the honest conclusion as to who is really working to alleviate this crisis.”

Meanwhile, in the course of Iran-Russia-Turkey Trilateral Summit on Syria which was held the same day in Tehran, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed ceasefire in Idlib, connecting this situation to a refugee crisis. More refugees from Syria are perceived by Turkey as a security threat. The Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his turn, referred to the inefficacy of such an agreement with terrorists.

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