"We are moving in this direction. We have never wanted a military operation [in Idlib] and we have been working to avoid it because we know that any kind of military action in Idlib would turn into a catastrophe. However, other approaches have failed, while the Nusra Front* has come to control even more [of the province's] territory", Zarif said in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Basler Zeitung, published on 22 February.
Idlib province was captured by Nusra Front jihadists in 2015. Two years later, when Iran, Russia, and Turkey reached an agreement on the establishment of Syrian de-escalation zones, militants from various armed anti-government groups that refused to surrender to the Syrian government forces were transported to Idlib from across the country.
However, despite progress being made in the withdrawal of weapons and fighters from the area, the remaining militants regularly commit ceasefire violations by shelling nearby provinces. In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in January that al-Nusra Front had taken over around 70 percent of the demilitarised zone.
*al-Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra, known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham is a terrorist group banned in Russia