70 percent of Idlib controlled by al-Nusra, says Russian FM Lavrov

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) shakes hands with his Iran's counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu (R) looks on after a news conference in Moscow on December 20, 2016. Russia, Iran and Turkey agreed to guarantee Syria peace talks and backed expanding a ceasefire in the war-torn country, Russian foreign minister said after talks with counterparts. / AFP PHOTO / Natalia KOLESNIKOVA

The al-Nusra Front, a former affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria, now occupies 70 percent of Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday during a press conference with his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, in Moscow, the Hürriyet Daily News reported.

“It also worries us that in Idlib, contrary to the agreements on creating the demilitarized zone there, Jabhat al-Nusra dominates and violates the demilitarized zone. About 70 percent of this territory is already occupied by terrorists; they are trying to attack the Syrian army’s positions, settlements and they are trying to threaten our military air base in Hmeymim,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov on Wednesday said there was progress in resolving Syria’s seven-year conflict and that the focus should remain on Idlib.

Syrian government ally Russia and Turkey, which backs Syrian rebels, agreed in September of last year to create a demilitarized zone around the last rebel-held enclave of Idlib.

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