Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s Remarks on the Situation in Syria

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Update on Syria

The situation remains relatively calm in most of Syria. Armed clashes have been observed only in the enclaves where terrorists are still present, such as Idlib and southwestern Syria outside the towns of Hajin and Sousse, from which the Americans and their Kurdish allies have been trying unsuccessfully to drive out the remaining ISIS formations for months now, as well as on the al-Safa volcanic plateau, where the Syrian government army is conducting mop-up operations against the terrorists.

The Russia-Turkey Memorandum on the Stabilisation of the Idlib de-escalation zone of September 17 is ongoing. Despite progress in creating a demilitarised strip under the Memorandum along the borders of this zone, it is too early to talk about the completion of the work that needs to be done. Nusra and its allies stage daily provocations, such as the shelling of residential areas in western Aleppo, undertaking desperate attempts to breach Syrian government troop positions on the southern flank in the direction of the town of Hama and conducting raids in the Latakia Mountains. About 200 such incidents were recorded in October.

Hostilities flared up near the Syrian-Turkish border east of the Euphrates River on October 31, with cross-border exchanges of fire between the Turkish military and the Kurdish self-defence units, which, however, stopped after the Turkish and US military started joint patrols of the town of Manbij west of the Euphrates River and US and Kurdish military units started joint patrols east of the river.

The legitimate authority was strengthened in the areas controlled by the Syrian government, and some infrastructure, destroyed during the hostilities, was rebuilt. Efforts were made to return the area to a peaceful life. Internally displaced persons and refugees from abroad continued to return to their homes. About 1.5 million people have returned since earlier this year, including about 250,000 Syrians who had found refuge in the neighbouring countries. The opening of the Naseeb checkpoint on the Syrian-Jordanian border in mid-October made it possible for about 6,000 Syrians to repatriate from Jordan. There’s a steady flow of refugees returning home from neighbouring Lebanon.

At the same time, the economic difficulties faced by Syria are affecting this process. These difficulties are the result not only of the massive destruction caused by the armed conflict, but also the severed economic ties between the country’s western provinces and its eastern regions, where quasi-state administration bodies are being created in violation of Syria’s constitution and its sovereignty with the support of the illegal military presence of the United States and radical Kurdish politicians.

The Syrians continue to feel the negative effects of unilateral financial and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies. The situation is particularly difficult in healthcare. According to the World Health Organisation, there are significant problems with access to skilled medical care. This is due not only to the slow recovery of medical institutions, but also shortages of medicines, primarily for cancer treatment. On top of that, commercial deliveries of medicines to Syria are extremely difficult due to restrictions imposed on bank transfers.

We would also like to note the consequences of other actions by the United States, or rather, the coalition they are leading. Last week, in its letters to the UN Secretary General and the UN Security Council President, the Syrian government provided tragic statistics of civilian casualties caused by bombings of Raqqa by the US-led coalition during what was said to be “liberation from ISIS.” This is difficult to look at. It’s hard to believe, especially given the hysterical reaction that the United States and other Western countries and non-governmental organisations have expressed in relation to the rights of the Syrians. Nonetheless, I’m compelled to make this data public.

Over 4,000 dead bodies were found, mostly women, old people and children, when clearing up the debris caused by airstrikes in the ​​Al-Hadiqa Al-Baida district, the Ar-Rashid Stadium and the local zoo. In addition, a mass grave with over 2,500 bodies was found on a farm near a pediatric clinic and the National Hospital. Another burial ground with 1,500 bombing victims was uncovered in the Panorama area. The letters noted that only 2 percent of the debris had been cleared in Raqqa at this point, which was almost razed to the ground. Water supply is partially restored only on the outskirts of that city, and mine clearing hasn’t even started.

All of this is in stark contrast with the information provided in a number of recently released reports by various Western NGOs on the situation in Raqqa. For example, a material by REACH (www.reach-initiative.org) prepared on the occasion of the anniversary of Raqqa “liberation” from ISIS shows a rosy picture of the city being rebuilt which, unfortunately, is at odds with the tragic reality which was witnessed by the people who began analysing what really happened in this area.

On November 3, after several days of delays, the necessary guarantees were finally obtained from the United States that the US military, rather than their wards from among armed gunmen, will ensure the security of a UN humanitarian convoy consisting of 72 trucks. The humanitarian supplies were delivered to Rukban Camp for internally displaced persons located inside the “exclusive” 55-kilometre zone created by the Americans on Syrian soil around their illegal Al-Tanf military base. Outside this zone, the security of the column was ensured by the Russian and Syrian militaries. Despite the initial setback, we highly appreciate the result of this joint operation, which made it possible to somewhat postpone the humanitarian disaster threatening the residents of this 60,000-strong camp, who were actually deprived of normal contact with the outside world. Clearly, one-time efforts, no matter how large, cannot resolve the problem of these people who found themselves on a territory actually occupied by a foreign power.

To be continued…

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation