Lavrov rejects Idlib cease-fire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

Syrians search for victims following an airstrike by pro-regime forces in Binnish, Idlib, near the border with Turkey. (AFP)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Lavrov rejects Idlib cease-fire as ‘capitulating before terrorists’

  • Turkish-backed opposition fighters seize town as Assad troops press ahead with campaign

GENEVA: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday rejected calls for a halt to a Russia-backed Syrian offensive in Idlib in northwest Syria.

“This is capitulating before terrorists and even a reward for their activities in violation of international treaties and numerous UN Security Council resolutions,” Lavrov told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Lavrov accused some governments of “a desire to justify outrageous acts committed by radical and terrorist groupings.
“Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain admonishments about the possibility of concluding peace agreements with bandits,” he said, referring to the situation in Idlib.
Syrian rebels backed by the Turkish military have seized the town of Nairab in northwest Syria’s Idlib province, the first area to be taken back from advancing Syrian regime forces.
“With the help of our Turkish friends, we have regained control of the strategic town of Nairab, the gateway of Saraqeb, after expelling the terrorist Russian militias,” Yusef Hamoud, spokesman for the Turkish-backed National Army, said.
A Turkish security official said the Turkish military had supported the rebel offensive with shelling and that bomb disposal teams and the rebels were now clearing the town, located about 20 km southeast of rebel-held Idlib city.
Their next goal was to capture the strategic town of Saraqeb, where Syria’s main north-south highway linking Damascus and Aleppo meets the road west to the Mediterranean. “This will happen soon. The regime suffered heavy losses in the clashes last night. Also, a serious amount of weapons and ammunition was seized,” the Turkish official said.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on the warring sides to allow safe passage for civilians to escape attacks. It reminded them that hospitals, markets and schools are protected by law.

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A Turkish security official said the Turkish military had supported the rebel offensive with shelling and that bomb disposal teams and the rebels were now clearing the town, located about 20 km southeast of rebel-held Idlib city.

“We are urging parties to allow civilians to move to safety, either in areas they control or across the front lines,” ICRC spokeswoman Ruth Hetherington told a news briefing.
An airstrike struck a school, killing three people, Syrian opposition activists said, as regime forces moved forward in their offensive toward a town considered a symbol of the uprising against President Bashar Assad.
The violence came as Turkey’s president announced that a Russian delegation would arrive the following day to resume talks aimed at easing tensions in Idlib.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said no consensus was reached for a four-way meeting next month between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey meant to address the crisis. He added, however, that Russia’s Vladimir Putin may still come to Turkey next week for a bilateral meeting. Moscow has so far not confirmed a March 5 visit by the Russian president to Turkey.
“Russia supports Syria at the highest level,” Erdogan told reporters before departing for a visit to Azerbaijan. “Even if they deny it, we have evidence. We are forced to be in this fight.”


Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

Updated 50 min 49 sec ago

Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

  • According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries
  • Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian hard-liners in parliament on Wednesday voted against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister in the first showdown between the rival camps since the house resumed work in May despite the struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee. There were 254 lawmakers at the session and 10 abstained. The parliament has 290 seats.
The vote marked the first serious confrontation between the newly elected house, dominated by conservatives and the bloc of supporters of the relatively moderate Rouhani. Under the law, Rouhani must introduce new nominees to his Cabinet in the next three months.
Rouhani in May dismissed the trade and industry minister at the time, Reza Rahmani, as Iran faced an unprecedented economic downturn amid intense pressure from the United States after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country. Khiabani, 52, had since been the acting trade minister.
Iran is also grappling with the largest and deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East, with more than 331,000 confirmed cases and at least 18,800 deaths.