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Russia tells Security Council 'ready to de-escalate with anyone' in Syria's Idlib


AFP United Nations (US)
Moscow is "ready to de-escalate with anyone" in the battleground Idlib region of northwestern Syria, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council on Friday.
His comments came as the Council held emergency talks on the escalation of fighting in the country, after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in a Syrian air raid.
Nebenzia's remarks marked a change of course from Thursday, when Russia maintained that the Security Council was holding too many meetings on the Syria issue.
The emergency talks were requested by the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Estonia, and the Dominican Republic -- some of which have stated publicly that they support Turkey.
"A Russian delegation is currently in Ankara to stabilise the situation," Nebenzia said, adding that his country was "ready to de-escalate with anyone who wants to" in Idlib.
The ambassador reiterated that Moscow "had not participated in the attacks".
The meeting was the Security Council's sixth on Syria since the beginning of February.
After the late Thursday attack in Idlib, Turkish reprisals killed 20 Syrian soldiers there and in neighbouring Aleppo, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The vast majority of Security Council members from across the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe have called for an urgent ceasefire.
"The military escalation in Idlib must stop. It must stop now," European members said.
"These attacks further show that the Syrian regime, assisted and politically backed by Russia, continues its military strategy at any cost, ignoring the consequences of its actions against civilians," they added.
US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft called on Russia to immediately ground its warplanes and urged "all Syrian forces and their Russian backers to withdraw to the ceasefire lines first established in 2018".
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted during the opening of the session that "the conflict is changed in its nature", and that there had been "a very meaningful escalation in the last few days".
On Wednesday, nine members of the Security Council asked Guterres to do more to press for a ceasefire in Idlib.
Germany even asked him to travel there but he declined, saying it might be counterproductive and alienate Russia, diplomats said.
Since late 2019, Russia has been supporting a Syrian drive to take control of Idlib, the last stronghold of rebels fighting the Damascus government.
Since the war in Syria began in 2011, the council has often struggled to come up with meaningful action to stop it.
Russia has used its veto power 14 times to kill resolutions aimed at halting military offensives or to limit humanitarian operations that did not have the approval of the Syrian government.

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First Published: Feb 29 2020 | 6:26 AM IST

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