Damascus forces advance closer to Raqqah: Syria envoy
The Syrian ambassador to Russia says Damascus forces have advanced close to Raqqah, the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group’s stronghold in Syria, being now only 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the city.
“The Syrian army is moving successfully, it is now some 20 km from Raqqah,” Riyad Haddad said on Thursday, adding that the militants are leaving their bases “possibly to hide.”
Haddad further linked growing terrorist attacks targeting civilians in Syria to the terrorists’ inability to resist the Syrian armed forces.
A Syrian military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said government troops, backed by Russian air power, are now closer Raqqah than the armed units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces.
“We are gradually moving towards al-Raqqah from the south and from the west and are now closer to it than opposition forces, which are acting jointly with the US,” he said.
Raqqah city, on the northern bank of the Euphrates River, about 160 kilometers east of Aleppo, was overrun by Takfiri terrorists in March 2013, and in 2014 was proclaimed the center for most of the terrorists’ administrative and control tasks.
Syrian forces are now engaged in a military offensive to liberate the Daesh-held city.
Elsewhere, a Russian ceasefire monitoring center in Syria warned that al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front terrorists continue to shell populated areas in Aleppo Province.
“Mortars and multiple rocket launchers have shelled the populated localities across the embattled region, said a representative of the center.
The Syrian envoy also accused Turkey of planning to form an “incubator” for terrorist groups in northern Syria, underlining the necessity for closing the border between the two states in a bid to cut the flow of arms to militants.
“There is a need to close the Syrian-Turkish border and ban terrorists, weapons, funding intended for terrorist activities, there is a need to impose tough sanctions on those who allow that,” Haddad said.
He further warned that “terror will backfire on the countries that have used this card.”
Damascus regards Turkey as one of the main supporters of the militants fighting the government forces in the Arab country.
Intra-Syrian dialogue should be resumed: Lavrov
In another development on the diplomatic front, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed worries Thursday about a halt in the Syria peace talks, highlighting the need for the resumption of negotiations between warring sides.
Lavrov made the remarks at a press conference with his visiting Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh.
“We now see considerable progress on the issue of delivering humanitarian assistance to the needy population, we see the constructive efforts made by the Syrian government, and we believe that, nevertheless, more can be done here,” Lavrov said.
The latest round of the UN-brokered indirect negotiations between Syria’s rival parties began in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 13.
However, the talks were brought to a halt after the main foreign-backed opposition group walked out of the discussions to protest at what it called the Syrian government’s violation of a shaky ceasefire.
Damascus dismissed the accusation, saying the truce was violated by foreign-backed militants.
The nationwide cessation of hostilities, brokered by Moscow and Washington, was introduced in February, but renewed violence in recent weeks has left the ceasefire in tatters.
Touching on the truce, the top Russian diplomat renewed his call for the ceasefire to be strictly observed in the Arab country.
He also reported progress on delivering humanitarian assistance in Syria, but added, however, that more can be achieved in that regard.
Meanwhile, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said the world body will not hold another round of peace talks on the crisis in Syria until officials on all sides agree the parameters for a political transition deal with the August 1 deadline.
“The time is not yet mature for the official third round of the intra-Syrian talks,” de Mistura told reporters in Geneva on Thursday.