UNITED NATIONS, Sept 24, 2018 (News Wires) - France's foreign minister wants the UN to rally behind a Russian-Turkish accord averting a massive battle for the Syrian rebel stronghold of Idlib.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Monday that the accord is "a good thing" and an "opportunity to seize," despite concerns that it may not work.
Speaking ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York, Le Drian said France supports a push for a UN resolution backing the Idlib accord.
However, he wants to add conditions to link the agreement to a longer term peace process.
MOSCOW, September 24, 2018 (News Wires) — Russia announced on Monday that it will supply the Syrian government with more modern, S-300 missile defence systems following last week's downing of a Russian plane by Syria, a friendly fire incident that sent regional tensions over the war-torn country soaring.
The Russian military aircraft was downed by Syrian government missile defence systems, killing all 15 people on board. Russia laid the blame squarely on Israel, saying Israeli fighter jets had pushed the Russian plane into the line of Syria's fire.
Shortly before the downing, Israeli strikes had hit targets inside Syria, reportedly preventing an arms shipment going to the Iranian-backed militant Hizbollah group.
Russia launched its campaign in Syria to support President Bashar Assad in 2015, and though the involvement turned the tide of war in favour of Syrian government forces, Moscow has since tried to play a careful balancing act, maintaining good ties both with Iran and Israel.
For its part, Israel is wary of Iran's growing influence in Syria, which is bringing its archenemy closer to its borders. Last week's downing has put Russia's relationship with Israel to a test.
President Vladimir Putin initially struck a reconciliatory note, blaming the downing on a "chain of tragic, fatal circumstances." But the Russian military came out on Sunday, renewing the accusations against Israel.
Russian officials said Syria's outdated S-200 systems weren't sophisticated enough to identify the Russian plane as a friendly one.
Monday's statement from Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will send the S-300 missile defence systems to Syria within the next two weeks. Earlier in the war, Russia suspended a supply of S-300s, which Israel feared Syria could use against it.
Shoigu said Russia is now going to go ahead with the shipment because "the situation has changed, and it's not our fault." He also said that Russia would start to electronically jam aircraft flying in to attack targets in Syria.
"We are convinced that these measures will calm down some hotheads and keep them from careless actions which pose a threat to our troops," Shoigu said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Russian news agencies that supplying S-300 to Syria is Russia's "own right" and expressed confidence that this would not hurt ties with Israel.
The Kremlin said Russia's decision was not targeted against anyone and only serves to protect Russian troops in Syria. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that recent findings by the Russian military showed an Israeli jet "deliberately" pushed the Russian Il-20 into the line of fire, enabling its downing.
Shortly after Moscow's announcement, the Syrian president's office said Assad received a call from Vladimir Putin and that the two discussed the latest developments, including the Idlib deal and the delivery of S-300s.
According to the statement, Putin reiterated that Russia holds Israel responsible for the downing of the Russian plane. The Russian president also informed Assad of the S-300 delivery, it said.
Assad expressed his condolences for the deaths of the Russian airmen, saying they were "carrying out noble mission, fighting terrorism in Syria."
The Kremlin confirmed the call, saying Assad and Putin discussed working towards "achieving a lasting normalisation in Syria and restoration of its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity."
ISTANBUL, September 24, 2018 (News Wires) - Turkey will take action east of the Euphrates river in Syria and impose secure zones as it has done in the northwest of the country, President Tayyip Erdogan said in comments broadcast on Turkish media on Monday.
Earlier this year, Turkey carried out a military operation to seize control of Syria's Afrin region from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organisation. The YPG also controls the Syrian region east of the Euphrates.
"God willing, in the period ahead we will increase the number of secure zones in Syria, encompassing the east of the Euphrates," Erdogan said in a speech during a visit to New York.
Before the Afrin operation, Turkey also carried out a cross-border operation dubbed "Euphrates Shield", which targeted both the YPG and Islamic State fighters east of Afrin.
After the completion of Euphrates Shield in early 2017, Turkey set up local systems of governance in the swathe of land under its control and protected by Turkish forces. It has done the same in Afrin.
Erdogan has in the past warned of new military operations against the YPG along the Syrian border and if necessary into northern Iraq.
Expanding Turkey's military campaign into the much larger Kurdish-held territory east of the Euphrates would risk confronting troops of NATO ally the United States, that are deployed alongside a YPG-dominated force there.
The YPG has been Washington's main ally against Islamic State in Syria, infuriating Ankara which sees the Kurdish force as an extension of a militant group waging a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey.
Erdogan's comments come a week after he and Russia's Vladimir Putin announced a deal under which Russian and Turkish troops will enforce a demilitarised zone in northwest Syria's Idlib region.
MOSCOW, Sept 23, 2018 (MENA) - The Israeli Air Force misled Russia by providing wrong information about the area of the planned air strikes in
Syria on September 17, thus preventing the Russian Il-20 from moving to a safe zone, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov was quoted by Sputnik as saying on Sunday.
Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday, Konashenkov provided more details on the downing of the Russian Il-20 military aircraft near Syria on September 17.
"Today, we share detailed information about the crash of the Ilyushin IL- 20 airplane of the Russian Aerospace Forces near the Syrian coast on September 17. We will present a minute-by-minute account of this tragic incident that was made based on the objective radar readings including those from the Plotto air information display system," he said.
According to Konashenkov, the Israeli Air Force provided Russia with misleading information on the location of its airstrikes on targets in Syria, which prevented the commander of the Il-20 plane from relocating to a safe zone and led to its destruction.
"During the negotiations via the deconfliction channel, the representative of the Israeli Air Force Command reported that the targets assigned to the Israeli aircraft are located in Northern Syria … As you can see on the map, the Israeli jets delivered strikes in Latakia which is a western province of the country — and not in the north of the Syrian Arab Republic. The city of Latakia is located on the western coast. The misleading information provided by the Israeli officer about the area of strikes did not allow the Russian Il-20 airplane to move timely to a safe area," Konashenkov said.
BEITRUT, September 23, 2018 (AFP) - Pro-Turkey rebels have cautiously accepted a Moscow-Ankara deal to prevent a Russia-backed regime attack on Syria's last major opposition bastion of Idlib, while a small jihadist group has rejected it.
The dominant force in the northwestern region bordering Turkey, the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance led by jihadists of Syria's former al-Qaeda affiliate, had on Sunday however still not responded.
Late Saturday, the National Liberation Front (NLF) rebel alliance in a statement accepted the deal reached on Monday for Idlib, but said they remained on their guard.
They announced "our full co-operation with our Turkish ally in helping to make a success their efforts to spare civilians from the afflictions of war".
"But we will stay alert to any betrayal by the Russians, the regime or the Iranians," the NLF warned, fearing the agreement to be "temporary".
"We will not abandon our weapons, our land or our revolution" against the Russia- and Iran-backed forces of President Bashar al-Assad, the rebels said.
Also on Saturday, in a statement circulated on social media, the al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen rejected the agreement reached in the Russian resort of Sochi.
"We at the Hurras al-Deen organisation again announce our rejection of these conspiracies," it said.
Monday's agreement provides for a U-shaped buffer zone 15 to 20 kilometres wide to be set up around Idlib.
Under the deal, all factions in the planned demilitarised zone must hand over their heavy weapons by October 10, and radical groups must withdraw by October 15.
Both the extremist Hurras al-Deen and NLF rebels are present inside this planned buffer area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.
But the dominant HTS alliance is also widely present, according to the Britain-based monitor.
The jihadist-led group -- which controls more than half of the Idlib region -- has not officially responded to the agreement.
But its propaganda agency Ebaa has cast doubt on Turkey's motivations.
In August, HTS leader Abu Mohamed al-Jolani warned opposition factions in Idlib against handing over their weapons.
Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions from their homes since erupting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.
DAMASCUS, Sept 22 (MENA) - Armed men of Daesh terrorist group blew up an oil tank in Syria's Deir Ezzor eastern countryside, said Syrian sources on Saturday.
The blast took place in an oil field which is under the control of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Al Hurra News Channel quoted the sources as saying.
Cautious calm prevails in the eastern bank of Euphrates River where the SDF work for eradicating Daesh in this area, the sources added.