13:41 GMT25 February 2020
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    DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - The militants controlling the Syrian city of Maarat al-Numan in the Idlib province have refused to give it up peacefully during negotiations with the Syrian government, Omar Rahmon, a member of the National Reconciliation Committee, said on Wednesday.

    "The terrorist groups that are active in Maarat al-Numan have refused to initiate any reconciliation [process], despite the civilians' strong desire to rejoin the government", Rahmon said in an interview with the newspaper.

    According to him, the militants hope for Turkish support and to take advantage of the worsened weather conditions.

    "In light of the virtual impossibility of a truce, the fighting will continue until Maarat al-Numan will be brought back under Damascus' control", Rahmon stated.

    On Monday, Rahmon told the Syrian al-Watan newspaper that the Syrian authorities were negotiating the city's surrender, but the chances of that were slim. He accused the militants that run the city of acting on the orders of Turkey.

    Syrian northwestern city of Idlib.
    © AFP 2019 / Mohamed al-Bakour
    Syrian northwestern city of Idlib.

    Idlib remains a major terrorist stronghold, being home to an estimated 10,000 jihadists from various factions, according to the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team. In November, President Bashar Assad announced that Idlib's liberation would not take much time, but noted that the government wanted to give civilians the opportunity to leave the area.

    militants, Idlib, Syria
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