Damascus: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday said that a Russia-Turkey deal for the last major rebel bastion of Idlib was a “temporary measure”, state news agency SANA reported.
“The agreement is a temporary measure through which the state has realised many achievements on the ground starting with stemming the bloodshed,” SANA reported the president as saying at a meeting of the central committee of his Baath party.
The deal reached on September 17 betwen regime ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara aims to avert a massive regime assault on Idlib province and adjacent areas, by creating a 15 to 20-kilometre (9-12 mile) buffer zone ringing the country’s last major rebel stronghold.
“This province and other Syrian territory still under terrorist control will return to the Syrian state,” SANA reported Assad as saying, employing the regime’s usual term for both rebels and jihadists.
Assad’s regime has retaken large parts of Syria from opposition fighters and jihadists since Russia intervened militarily by its side in 2015.
More than half of the Idlib region is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, while Turkey-backed rebels hold most of the rest.
Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since starting in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.