US, Iran welcome Sochi deal to reduce violence in Idlib
The United States welcomes any “sincere effort” to reduce violence in Syria, a State Department official said on Sept. 17.
“We are encouraged that Turkey and Russia appear to have taken steps to avert a military offensive by the Assad regime and its allies in Idlib and welcome any sincere effort to reduce the violence in Syria. We hope de-escalation is made permanent,” the official told state-run Anadolu Agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who met in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Sept. 17 to discuss the fate of Idlib, agreed to create a 15-20-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.
The agreement entails the withdrawal of all radical fighters from the opposition bastion Idlib as well as heavy weaponry from this zone.
The U.S official added that the U.S. was not involved in the negotiations between the Turkish and Russian governments in Sochi.
“As we have noted before, an offensive by the Assad regime and its allies against the densely populated Idlib province would be a reckless escalation and would have serious consequences for Syria and the surrounding region,” the U.S. official added.
The official also said Washington remains “concerned by the Assad regime’s pattern of destabilizing actions in Idlib and elsewhere,” noting that the U.S. will continue to watch the situation and the regime’s actions closely.
“As the United Nations Security Council has long emphasized, ending the conflict will require a political solution based on UNSCR 2254 and the Geneva process,” the official added.
“The United States supports any credible efforts that prevent resurgence of violence and protects civilians. Civilians must be allowed freedom of movement, including the right to return home, and provided access to immediate humanitarian assistance and medical care,” the official said.
Tehran hails Idlib deal
Iran’s foreign minister on Sept. 17 also hailed the agreement between Turkey and Russia as an example of “responsible diplomacy.”
“Intensive, responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks is succeeding to avert war in Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter, AFP reported.
“Diplomacy works,” he added, pointing to his visits to Ankara and Damascus as well as a three-way summit between the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey earlier this month.
Tehran and Moscow are key supporters of President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has also welcomed the diplomatic efforts aimed at reducing violence in Idlib.
The meeting between Erdoğan and Putin was “very important,” a U.N. official said on Sept. 17.
Stephane Dujarric, the U.N.’s secretary-general’s spokesperson, said the talk would have a “positive” impact on civilians in Idlib since they are at “great risk.”
Erdoğan made a “diplomatic attempt” to prevent a major humanitarian crisis in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said following the Sochi meeting.