By Elena Teslova
MOSCOW (AA) – The U.S. activities in the southeastern Syria poses a threat to the country’s integrity, Russia’s presidential envoy for Syria said on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference following a regular meeting in Astana — which hosted 11th Syria peace talks –, Alexander Lavrentyev said the Syrian opposition is irritated by the U.S. activities in At Tanf region, southeastern Syria.
"It was noteworthy that the representatives of the Syrian opposition, with whom we had quite productive talks today, stressed their dislike for the current situation (in the southeastern Syria).
“They admitted that, according to their feelings, the Americans, indeed, are tending to a certain division of the country, making show of, at the same time, a commitment to the principles of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, indivisibility of Syria," he said.
Russia constantly expresses concern over the 55 km zone, “occupied” by the U.S., according to the Russian wording, near At Tanf region, on the eastern bank of Euphrates.
Recently, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. has been training the militants at its At Tanf military base.
Russian authorities, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, keep saying that the U.S. intends to create “a quasi state” basing on the Kurdish population, dominant in the region.
Moscow insists that the U.S. presence and actions in the area are illegal and violate Syria’s territorial integrity.
Lavrentyev, also head of the Russian delegation at the Astana talks on Syria, branded the talks with the Syrian opposition “constructive”.
On the situation in the northwestern Idlib province in Syria, he said it was difficult to say how long it would take to solve the problem. Everyone, he added, “sincerely wants” to do it.
After a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.
Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent a resumption of fighting.
On Oct. 10, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced that the Syrian opposition and other anti-regime groups had completed the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the Idlib demilitarized zone.
Despite the cease-fire agreement, the Assad regime and its allies have continued their low-intensity attacks on Idlib’s de-escalation zone.
The conflict in Syria began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.