Russia wants Syrian border with Turkey closed: Lavrov

Russia wants Syrian border with Turkey closed: Lavrov

Russia wants Syrian border with Turkey closed: Lavrov

AFP photo

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called March 1 for the closure of Syria’s border with Turkey to cut off outside supplies to “terrorists,” including through humanitarian convoys.

“Of course, neither in ceasefire agreements, nor in the process of political settlement is there a place for terrorists and extremists,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by AFP at an address at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“A very special task is to cut the terrorists’ supply from the outside. For this purpose it is important to close the Syrian-Turkish border, since across this border those gangs receive arms, including with humanitarian convoys,” Lavrov said, according to an official transcript in English of his remarks.

He insisted that a “landslide defeat of [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)]... al-Nusra and those of their kind is a necessary precondition for securing the rights of long-suffering peoples of Syria” and the rest of the region.

His comments came after aid workers on Feb. 29 made the first delivery of desperately-needed assistance since the start of Syria’s fragile ceasefire four days ago.

Moscow and Washington drafted the U.N.-backed cessation of hostilities deal, and the two countries are co-chairing an international task force evaluating how the ceasefire is holding.

At an earlier meeting in Geneva, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon thanked Lavrov for “his significant role in achieving recent progress on Syria,” a U.N. statement said.  

“They agreed on the importance of urgently moving forward simultaneously on implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement, providing vital humanitarian assistance to civilians, and returning to political negotiations,” the statement further said.

The deal meanwhile does not apply to the vast swaths of territory held by ISIL and the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front.

Meanwhile, U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura told Reuters that the U.S. and Russia must make Syria’s cessation of hostilities work or else it may become necessary to delay the resumption of peace talks. 

Since the agreement to halt nearly five years of fighting came into force on Feb. 27, the Syrian government and the opposition have accused each other of violating the deal but international observers have reported a decline in violence. 

Without progress on the cessation of hostilities and on access for humanitarian aid, de Mistura said he could “slightly” postpone the next round of peace talks, which has been penciled in for March 7. 

“The decision on whether they will be on Monday [March 7] or slightly later will be taken in the next few days, depending on what is happening on the ground,” he said. 

“We don’t want discussions in Geneva to become a discussion about infringements or not of the ceasefire, we want them to actually address the core of everything.” 

“So we will be in the next few days analyzing how far both the ceasefire and the humanitarian access have come, so that they don’t become hostages of the talks and the talks don’t become hostages to progress on that,” de Mistura said. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Feb. 29 that while efforts were being made to track down alleged violations of the cessation of hostilities in Syria, there was currently no evidence to suggest it would destabilize the fragile peace.