Syrian president calls for progress in stalled talks on Idlib buffer zone
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Syrian president calls for progress in stalled talks on Idlib buffer zone

Assad made the remarks in a meeting with the Russian president’s special envoy Alexander Lavrentiev in Damascus. The Syrian president also stressed his government’s determination to eliminate terrorist groups which are holed up in Idlib and attack civilians in neighboring areas. He also called for the removal of any "obstacles" blocking the full implementation of the deal, the presidency wrote on Facebook. Turkey and Russia brokered a deal in September 2018 to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib that would be evacuated of all heavy weapons and militants. Assad’s meeting with the Russian diplomat came ahead of fresh Syria talks aimed at ending the conflict in the war-torn country. The new round of Syria negotiations are scheduled to be held on April 25 and 26 in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana. The Syrian president’s call for progress in talks and elimination of terrorist groups holed up in Idlib comes as the situation in the militant-held province is being described as “dangerous”. “The situation in the Syrian province [of Idlib] is very dangerous, and the Nusra Front terrorist group – which is not part of a de-escalation zone – is controlling a majority of the province’s regions,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned last month. Russia has also warned that al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists and the Western-backed White Helmets "aid" group are gearing up for a false flag chemical attack in Idlib, the last major militant stronghold in the Arab state. Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Thursday that terrorists with the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, better known as al-Nusra Front, "along with the White Helmets, are preparing for further provocations aimed at accusing the legitimate government in Syria of using poisonous substances.” Idlib, located in northwestern Syria, remains the only large area in the hands of anti-Damascus militants after government forces -- backed by Iran and Russia -- managed to undo militant gains across the country and bring back almost all of Syrian soil under government control.

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