North Syria must be under regime control: Russia's Lavrov

Moscow (AFP) –


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday the Syrian regime must take control of the country's north, after calls from the United States to set up a Turkish-controlled "security zone" in the area.

"We are convinced that the best and only solution is the transfer of these territories under the control of the Syrian government, and of Syrian security forces and administrative structures," Lavrov told reporters.

Turkey said on Tuesday it would set up the "security zone" in northern Syria following a suggestion from President Donald Trump, who announced last month he was pulling American troops from the country.

The US-allied Kurds, who control much of northern Syria, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.

Russia is a long-time supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lavrov said the future of the Kurds could be secured under regime control.

"We welcome and support contacts that have now begun between Kurdish representatives and Syrian authorities so they can return to their lives under a single government without outside interference," Lavrov said during an annual press conference.

He said there was progress in resolving Syria's seven-year conflict and that the focus should remain on Idlib, the northwestern province that earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

"The Syrian settlement is progressing, though of course more slowly than we would like," he said. "The fight against terrorism must be completed. Now the main hotbed of terrorism is Idlib."