Russian Federation to hold major naval drills in Mediterranean, TASS agency reports

Hugh Fox
August 31, 2018

After hosting nine rounds of fruitless talks between the Syrian government and opposition, de Mistura has recently focused his efforts on talks with the so-called "guarantors" of the peace process: Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The announcement comes as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's ally, appears to be preparing a major assault to regain control of Idlib Province, the last major stronghold of Syrian Sunni rebels.

"I assure you that we do not have chemical weapons and are not able to use them", he added, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

Lavrov also said that communication between Russian Federation and the United States on Syria is happening in "real time".

Over 25 Russian battleships and 30 warplanes will participate in military drills in the Mediterranean on September 1-8, the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday, after Western countries threatened to bomb Syria again.

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Russia's foreign minister says negotiations are underway to establish a humanitarian corridor for civilians to be able to leave Idlib, the northern rebel-held province of Syria where concerns of an imminent large conflict are mounting.

There were still negotiations over the offensive going on between Russian Federation and Turkey, as well as with Iran which also supports Assad regime in the war, the source said.

"Russia sees a cloud over Idlib, a cloud of terrorists".

There could be no justification to use heavy weapons against them in densely populated areas, he said.

It also risks raising tensions with Turkey, whose army established a ring of observation posts around the rebel territory past year under a "de-escalation" deal with Russian Federation and Iran.

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Lavrov had told reporters that there was a political understanding between Turkey and Russian Federation on the need to distinguish between the Syrian opposition and people he described as terrorists in Idlib province while not ruling out military action. Many are already living in camps in Idlib amid dire conditions, with 2 million in need of humanitarian aid.

The majority of the refugees fled to countries in the region, including Turkey (3.5 million), Lebanon (976,000), Jordan (668,000), Iraq (249,000), and Egypt (130,000).

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Idlib has been used as a relief valve for those evacuated from other rebel pockets like Eastern Ghouta following their negotiated surrender to the regime. Since then, the regime has recaptured two-thirds of its territory with the help of Russian Federation.

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