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Syria regime will regain full control over territory: defense minister

Syria regime will regain full control over territory: defense minister

2019/03/18 | 20:30

(Hatha al-Youm | Iraq News)-

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime will regain full control over jihadist-held Idlib and northern areas controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “sooner or later”, Syrian defense minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub told reporters Monday. Following a meeting in Damascus with Iran and Iraq’s chiefs of staff, designed to strengthen ties between the three militaries, Ayyoub said the United States has only one card left to play in Syria – the SDF. “Preserving the unity of the Syrian state geographically and human-wise is not negotiable and not up for discussion,” Ayyoub told a press conference in the Syrian capital alongside Iran’s Mohammad Bagheri and Iraq’s Othman al-Ghanimi. “The Syrian state will regain full control over all of its geography sooner or later, whether through reconciliation or military force. Idlib won’t be an exception at all,” he added.US forces are stationed in Syria illegally, Ayyoub said, unlike regime-backers Russia and Iran whose forces were formally invited by the Syrian government. He predicted the US would eventually leave. “There won’t be any area of Syrian soil outside the government control,” he added.Syrian Defence Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub (C), Iraq's Chief of Staff Othman Al-Ghanimi (R) and Iran's Chief of Staff Mohammad Hossein Bagheri (L) address a press conference in Damascus, March 18, 2019. Photo: AFP / HO / SANASyria’s northwestern province of Idlib is currently under the control of the former al-Qaeda affiliate Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). An estimated three million people remain inside the province, including thousands who fled former rebel bastions in Daraa and the suburbs of Damascus. A shaky truce brokered by Russia and opposition-backer Turkey has so far prevented a bloody regime offensive. Several northern areas, including the Kurdish canton of Afrin, are held by Turkish forces and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition groups. To the east of the Euphrates River, meanwhile, Kurdish parties have carved out an autonomous administration. Here the SDF is leading the ground war in Deir ez-Zor, near the Iraqi border, to uproot the last holdouts of the Islamic State (ISIS). Spooked by the prospect of an imminent US withdrawal, the Kurds of northern Syria (Rojava) have expressed a readiness to negotiate with the regime to secure some level of cultural autonomy should the regime retake the territory. Striking a deal with Damascus could prevent a feared Turkish offensive.The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), negotiating on behalf of the Rojava Kurds, has said the regime appears unwilling to compromise. The regime meanwhile has accused the US of trying to sabotage negotiations. “America and others will leave Syria as they have left other areas since their presence is illegitimate and rejected,” Ayyoub told reporters.“As for what is related to the so-called SDF, the rationale of the state and citizenship stipulates for the sons of the homeland to stand by their state and army, irrespective of the existence of differing political visions, but it shouldn’t reach the point of carrying arms against the army dedicated to preserving the security of the homeland and citizen,” he said.The army will “liberate” areas east of Euphrates if the SDF shows it is unwilling to pursue reconciliation and heed the authority of the state, he added.General Bagheri, the visiting Iranian chief of staff, told reports Tehran is prepared to stand by the Syrian government in its efforts to reassert control over every inch of Syrian territory.  Syrian President Assad has previously made it clear he intends to retake areas outside regime control and has threatened the SDF with military action if it refuses to accept rule from Damascus.











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