Syrian official vows that government will retake Idlib
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Syrian government intends to retake the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, either by force or through peaceful means, an official said in remarks published Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was quoted by the pro-government daily Al-Watan as saying that the government remains committed to regaining control over the entire country.
He said Idlib will go the way of three other regions that were previously considered de-escalation zones. In those regions, government forces backed by Russia and Iran laid siege to rebel-held areas before retaking them in bloody offensives.
“Just as we won in every other part of Syria, we will be victorious in Idlib,” Mekdad said. “We are going to Idlib through war or peace. We prefer to reach the Syrians in Idlib through peace,” he added.
Last week, Russia and Turkey reached a deal to avert an offensive against Idlib, which is controlled by a mix of radical groups and Turkey-backed Syrian forces.
Two insurgent groups have rejected the deal for a demilitarized zone around Idlib that should be set up by mid-October, calling it a conspiracy that aims to disarm the opposition.
Concerns are rising in Idlib over the details of the deal and how it will be implemented. The province is home to some 3 million Syrians, half of them displaced by violence in other parts of the country. Idlib is the last major rebel stronghold in the country, and Turkey has been sending reinforcements into the province, where it maintains 12 observation points that ring Idlib.